Learn Your Local Species
field tripsuggested grade levels: 9-12
view Idaho achievement standards for this lesson

The distribution of a species depends on many things including, climate, habitat, other life forms, and animal adaptations just to name a few. Some Idaho species live in many different habitats while others have very specific living requirements. The following activity will provide students with a hands-on experience studying the distribution of species in their area. This field trip can be done in your favorite stream, creek, or river.

1. The student will access a map from the Digital Atlas to identify major stream drainages into the Portneuf River.
2. The student will analyze the distribution of species of Idaho amphibians along a river area. The students may choose to focus on birds, reptiles, mammals, or butterflies if they prefer.
3. The student will take samples from three different sites along the river to verify the records in the Digital Atlas.

To see a map of Idaho: Click on Atlas Home, then on Idaho Maps. Use the buttons at the top and the search function to see an enlargement of the particular area you are studying. Maps can be printed by clicking on the map and then going to File and clicking on Print.

1. Go on a trip at a specific place along your river, stream, or creek. Students are divided into groups. Each group will be required to take samples at each site. The samples will include vegetation taken along the banks, net sampling of invertebrates, observation of any amphibians or evidence of amphibians including calls, tracks, scat, or eggs, and water temperature. Teachers can have students go to three different sites and collect data.
2. Be sure to have students listen to frog calls before they approach the habitat. Human noise within 400 feet can cause the frogs to stop calling. If you do hear calls you can identify the species by comparing it to the calls recorded for each species on the Digital Atlas.
To get there: Click on Atlas Home, Biology, Amphibians, then on Amphibians of Idaho Checklist. Click on selected species for information on them and click on "male call" to hear the call of the species.
3. Have the students bring their samples back to class so they can be identified using field guides as well as the Digital Atlas identification pages. Compile the information you have gathered and start a species checklist for your sites.
4. Discussion of results.

Questions: For class discussion
   1. What species of amphibians are most likely found along your river's drainage area?
   2. Give specific characteristics and habitats to support your answer.
   3. Were there any differences in samples from one site to another? What might be the effects of these differences on which amphibian species live there?
   4. What factors might affect each site?
   5. What recommendations can you give to improve the ecology of your river and its surrounding habitats?

Handouts/Activity links:
These are links to access the handouts and printable materials.
Idaho Maps | Amphibians of Idaho Checklist

Related Lesson Topics:
Biology: Biology Topics

Lesson Plan by Jeanie Johnston, 2001
Idaho Achievement Standards (as of 7/2001) met by completing this activity: