The British Herpetological Society

The Herpetological Journal is the Society's prestigious quarterly scientific journal. Articles are listed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences,Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Zoological Record.

 ISSN 0268-0130

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pdf 05. Effectiveness of the field identification of individual natterjack toads (Epidalea calamita) using comparisons of dorsal features through citizen science


Open Access


Authors: Stephen Smith, Tamsin Young & David Skydmore

Abstract: Citizen science is now making an important contribution, both in the collection of large amounts of data over wide geographical
areas and in promoting environmental awareness and engagement communities. However, as there are many participating
observers, the reliability of the data collected needs to be assessed. This study used a citizen science approach to investigate
whether dorsal features, when photographed, can be used in the identification of individual natterjack toads (Epidalea calamita).
Epidalea calamita individuals from a population located at Prestatyn, North Wales, were captured, photographed and released
in a legally compliant manner. Forty human participants each completed a timed exercise to match photographs of individual
toads that had been taken from different angles. Sixty-five percent of the participants accurately matched photographs on
their first attempt. The effect of training on the accuracy and speed at which participants could identify individuals from
photographs was then assessed. Twenty of the participants received basic training on recognising the key features of dorsal
patterns before carrying out the exercise again. Following training, average accuracy increased to 90% and participants were
41.5% quicker in completing the exercise than those that were untrained. The study revealed that basic training of participants
who are involved in citizen science projects was beneficial by having a significant impact on accuracy and speed. In addition, we
demonstrate that the dorsal features of tubercles and scarring are useful in identifying individuals of E. calamita in the field.

Keywords: Epidalea calamita, natterjack toad, photo-identification technique, training, mark recapture, citizen science

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