Pursuing my passion during AmeriCorps service

By Ally Audia, Huron Pines AmeriCorps member

Ally Audia, Huron Pines AmeriCorps member, holds a wood frog

Ally Audia, Huron Pines AmeriCorps member, holds a wood frog

Since I was a young kid I have been fascinated by “herps” (AKA amphibians and reptiles), especially frogs. Over the years I have taken every opportunity to engage with these creatures through both exploration and research.

Upon arriving at Legacy for my first AmeriCorps term in 2022, Preserve Stewardship Manager Kyler Moran encouraged me to find ways to pursue my personal interests (like herps!) in conjunction with my regular stewardship technician responsibilities. Fortunately for me, my love of herpetology aligns well with Legacy’s work. And with the unwavering support of Kyler, my passion has been instrumental in the organization’s recent push to participate in special, collaborative projects with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) and Friends of the Rouge (FOTR) to document the amphibian and reptile species present on several of Legacy preserves contributing to state-wide data counts.

This past spring Legacy joined (MNFI) as a partner in the Michigan Vernal Pool Patrol (MVPP). Led and managed by MNFI, MVPP is a state-wide citizen science program that gathers information on the distribution and status of vernal pools to help conserve them and protect the life they support.

During our first year as part of this amazing program, Legacy served as a MVPP coordinator providing vernal pool training for volunteers. In collaboration with the River Raisin Watershed Council and Pittsfield Township Parks & Recreation, my AmeriCorps cohort Camryn Brent and I led a training event at the Lloyd & Mabel Johnson Preserve. We helped train over 25 volunteers on vernal pool ecology and the Survey123 App so they will have the opportunity to participate in coming years! Camryn and I also surveyed vernal pools on Legacy’s preserves. We documented and submitted vernal pool characteristics for over 10 new potential vernal pools that will now be registered in the MNFI database. Legacy hopes to hold an annual vernal pool training event every spring and recruit new volunteers to record and contribute as much data as possible.

Thanks to my herp-love, this past year Legacy also participated in Friends of the Rouge’s annual Frog & Toad Survey. It’s a community-based listening survey, where volunteers are trained to distinguish the breeding calls of the seven frogs and one toad found in the River Rouge Watershed. I have personally participated in this survey for many years and knew Legacy had an ideal property for the survey!

Legacy’s Creekshead Nature Preserve in Plymouth falls within the Rouge River Watershed. After I little investigating, I found out that volunteers had monitored Creekshead in the past, but not since 2014. Camryn and I volunteered on Legacy’s behalf to survey Creekshead for the 2023 season. We heard numerous species including spring peepers, gray tree frogs, green frogs and wood frogs. Collaborations like this are crucial to furthering Legacy’s mission, and contribute valuable species data we are able to include in future management plans for our properties.

During my time at Legacy I have also been eager to contribute to this type of data on an even more personal level. And with Kyler’s help during my first AmeriCorps term, I formulated the concept of a coverboard amphibian survey to be completed at Creekshead Preserve over the course of 2022 and 2023. Tracking amphibian populations at Creekshead is an important way to contribute to local data collections while also exemplifying to the public the importance of the work Legacy does in preserving endangered wetland habitat during an “amphibian apocalypse”.

Coverboard placed at Creekshead Preserve

Amphibians are commonly known as ideal indicator species due to their extreme sensitivity to changes in the environment. Coverboards are designed to simulate fallen tree limbs, logs, or other debris and provide a cool, moist habitat for herpetofauna in an environment. To collect data, I placed twenty (1 in. x 12 in. x 12 in) coverboards of untreated pine in pairs throughout the preserve in the summer of 2022. Then, I conducted two survey periods during the fall of 2022 and spring-fall of 2023. I gathered data approximately once a week by checking underneath coverboards and walking the transects between boards. I recorded species identified and abundance.

My 2022-23 coverboard survey documented 8 species of reptiles and amphibians with over 150 encounters documented!

Species (Common name)

Total Number of Encounters

P. textilis (Eastern brown snake)


A. americanus (Eastern american toad)


N. viridescens (Eastern newt)


T. sirtalis (Garter snake)


R. clamitans (Green frog)


P. cinereus (Red-backed salamander)


P. crucifer (Spring peeper)


L. sylvaticus (Wood frog)


The diversity and number of herpetofauna species encountered illustrates the importance of Creekshead as a refuge for these species among an increasingly rural landscape.

I have loved participating in these projects during my time at Legacy. I am honored to have jumpstarted Legacy’s committed partnership in MNFI’s Vernal Pool Patrol program, reignited their participation in the FOTR Frog & Toad Survey, and created a coverboard survey that will serve as a foundation to enhance the awareness, understanding, and protection of Michigan’s diverse herpetofauna populations. I am extremely proud of the work I have put into documenting and preserving herp species on the preserves, and am very thankful for the support and optimism the Legacy staff has shown for allowing me to pursue my passions during my service term!