The Search for Gopher Frogs

In a partnership with the Longleaf Alliance, a group dedicated to ensuring a sustainable future for the longleaf pine ecosystem in the Southeastern United States, River Basin Center and Savannah River Ecology Lab researcher Dr. Stacey Lance is working to identify suitable habitat for Carolina gopher frogs, a species identified as endangered in the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama, and to survey existing populations on private lands. 

“Through this research, we hope to gain a better understanding of the status of gopher frogs in South Carolina and a sense of where potential reintroduction sites could be if it comes to that,” Lance said. 

The search for gopher frogs takes place on plantations and private lands throughout South Carolina, in longleaf pine ecosystems. 

To determine the extent of gopher frog populations the researchers used two tactics: visual searches for egg masses during the gopher frog’s breeding season in the wetlands on private lands around South Carolina, and if they didn’t have any luck spotting egg masses, DNA analysis of the water. 

“We collect 250 mL of water from four locations in the wetland, filter that water then extract DNA from the filter. With that DNA we use a quantitative PCR approach specific to gopher frogs and determine if there was gopher frog DNA present, and if so, in what quantities,” Lance explained.

Funding is through the Longleaf Alliance and the United States Fish and Wildlife Coastal Programs and National Fish and Wildlife Federation