Complications of Frog Camp Data

Hi Folks

“Frog Camp,” as it’s come to be known by my friends and family, is theoretically over.  Now it’s “Frog bootcamp” for me, as I try to figure out what on earth to do with all the data that I have. I have had to learn to use several functions and programs that were new to me, and soon I will face hours of manual data entering labor.

I thought it would be easier, but consolidating all the numbers and values has been a lot harder than I expected.  At first I just pushed things around on Google Earth.  I had to make sure I had a separate file for those points that had historical data associate with them, and another for those that didn’t. The data managing system for Google Earth is extremely simple and that made this process fairly tedious.  The The next step was to convert the waypoint data into Excel.  In order to do this, I used a handy little program called GPS Babel, which allows you to convert a large variety of data files to Excel-readable csv.  At first I couldn’t get it to run, and then I had trouble getting it to give me the correct output, but eventually I worked out the glitches and created a preliminary file using Excel’s import function.

That’s when I found out that the waypoint data had apparently been entered in about five different ways.  The Excel file contained the latitude and longitude data for each point, but most of them didn’t have their identification number or a date and time.  These are all theoretically bits of information that the GPS records and enters.  However, a great deal of it seems to have been lost in the transition process.  For me, this means hours of wading through field notes to manually enter the dates and identifications for hundreds of sites.  Yay!

In the meantime, we also need to figure out a way to analyze all the other layers of data we talked about.  An important part of these layers is the relative abundance of frog species at each site.  For example, if we heard one southern cricket frog among hundreds of northerns, we’re obliged to record that site as syntopic, meaning both species were found there. However, since the Southern Cricket Frogs had no chorus, it’s unlikely that they will continue to have any meaningful population at that site.   Choruses went from all northern frogs to all southern, and passed through each shade of combination in between.  In addition, this analysis is complicated by the fact that the total size of the chorus was always different. In other words, even if the proportion of Northern to Southern cricket frogs is the same between two sites, one might have a dozen Northerns with one Southern and the other might have a thousand Northerns and several dozen Southerns.  In the latter case, the Northern Cricket Frogs may be outcompeting the Southerns, but the Southerns are in no immediate danger of disappearing from the area. Just a small taste of the issues I have been dealing with.

Jonathan and I are working on getting the paper written, as well as on registering me at the meeting of the Virginia Herpetological Society to present our paper.  All in all, it’s going well, but it’s definitely not without its glitches and obstacles. But then again, is anything ever without glitches?

Thanks for reading!



  1. Brittany Fallon says:

    I’m just now reading all of your posts, but your project sounds so neat! I was working with somebody who used to research amphibians this summer, and she took me out frog catching – I was terrible, but it was so fun! The locals thought we were crazy, but it was really entertaining to stalk puddles and see what species we could find.

    We had some similar GPS problems with mapping the forest, so I understand your pain. Best of luck working it all out!

    If you ever need a frog-catching buddy, feel free to call – I’d love to try again!

    blfallon AT