Calling All Students

Are you interested in pursuing a career in environmental biology or environmental education? Are you a junior or senior in high school, or a college student looking for an exciting summer packed with relevant experience? Please consider joining the Roger Tory Peterson Institute’s Project Wild America Youth Ambassador program. Through this program you’ll have the opportunity to work alongside RTPI biologists and staff as they investigate, monitor and improve habitat for unusual and threatened species in the City of Jamestown, as well as raise public awareness and increase community engagement.

For those interested, applications in PDF can be picked up at RTPI or found here:

PWA Crew Leader Application 2017
PWA Crew Application 2017

Completed applications can be dropped off in person or emailed to Elyse Henshaw at ehenshaw AT

RTPI is very excited for what the upcoming field season has in store, and look forward to once again being immersed in water, mud and adventure alongside another great crew of students that will be doing the same as we explore and discover the natural wonders within the boundaries of our own city!

Northern Leopard Frog

The Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens) is one of many species that frequents New York’s grassland areas near ponds and marshes and can easily hide itself in the tall grasses during the summer months.

Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens)-6533

An example of the Northern Leopard Frog photographed in the “Meet Your Neighbours” style by Twan Leenders.

Northern leopard frogs are so named for the array of irregularly shaped dark spots that adorn their backs and legs. They are greenish-brown in color with a pearly white underside, light-colored ridges on either side of their backs, and a white stripe on their upper lip. They are considered medium-sized frogs, reaching lengths of 3 to 5 inches, nose to rump. The Northern Leopard Frog’s rounded spots with light borders help to differentiate it from the Pickerel frog, which has square spots and bright orange or yellow on the inner part of their hind legs.

The Northern Leopard Frog is found throughout northern North America, except on the Pacific Coast. They generally live near ponds and marshes, but will often venture into well-covered grasslands as well, earning them their other common name, the meadow frog.


Photographed by Elyse Henshaw

Northern leopard frog tadpoles and froglets are herbivores, feeding mostly on algae and other aquatic plants, which they scrape off submerged rocks and twigs with a rasping mouth. They grow rapidly and by late spring are about 1 inch long and begin to develop legs. These tadpoles metamorphose into frogs, and by early summer the small frogs leave the water to begin their life on land.

Not only can adult frogs can live out of water, but they can breathe through lungs as well (although they also obtain oxygen through their moist, thin skin). Furthermore, unlike tadpoles and froglets, adult Leopard frogs will eat just about anything they can fit in their mouths. They are known to eat beetles, ants, flies, worms, smaller frogs (including their own species), birds, and garter snakes.
During the winter Leopard frogs hibernate on the bottom of ponds. When winter ends, Northern leopard frogs are one of the first amphibians to emerge from hibernation in the spring and they are the first prolonged breeder to start calling.


Photographed by Scott Kruitbosch

The Northern leopard frog is often difficult to hear because it does not call in large groups’ as do other frog species. Individual leopard frogs call from the edge of the water. The Northern leopard frog has a distinct mating call. The call is a deep rattling snore interspersed with clucking grunts that may be single or multiple syllables. The leopard frog call can also be described as the sound a finger rubbing against a balloon.

The habitat of the adult frog is the narrow zone between water and grassland. Furthermore, Northern leopard frogs have innumerable predators. Fish, large salamanders, snakes, raccoons, mink, skunks, bullfrogs, herons, and hawks all prey upon frogs. One adaptation that frogs like the Northern Leopard Frog have developed to avoid predation are powerful legs for swimming and jumping. Leopard frogs can leap an astonishing 5 to 6 feet in a zigzag pattern to avoid predators.

Black- Crowned Night-Heron

Black-Crowned Night-Heron


Black-Crowned Night-Heron photographed by Scott Kruitbosch

Here we have a foraging Black-Crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), a long-legged wader of marshes, ponds, and wetlands, enjoying fresh, salt or brackish waters. They can be found across North America and are actually the most widespread heron in the world!  These spectacular herons have been spotted along the Chadakoin River here in Jamestown.

The Black-Crowned Night-Heron often spends its days perched on tree limbs or concealed among foliage and branches. During the evening and night the black-crowned night-heron forages in water, on mudflats, and on land.

Black-crowned Night-Herons are opportunists feeders that eat many kinds of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine animals. Their diet includes leeches, earthworms, insects, crayfish, clams, mussels, fish, amphibians, lizards, snakes, turtles, rodents, birds, and eggs. They also eat carrion, plant materials, and even garbage from landfills.


Black-Crowned Night-Heron Foraging For Food! photographed by Scott Kruitbosch

The Black-Crowned Night-Heron is a small stocky bird compared to many of their long-limbed heron relatives. They have thick necks, large, flat heads, and heavy, pointed bills.  The black-crowned night-heron has broad rounded wings and short legs, which in flight, barely reach the end of the tail.  During flight the black-crowned night-heron folds its head back against its shoulders almost making its neck disappear from view.

In the light of day adults are striking.  Adults are light-gray to white colored with red eyes and a neatly defined black back, black crown and all black bill.  Young immature black crowned night herons are brown with large white spots on the wings, blurry streaks on their underside, and have yellow-and-black bills.

These are social birds that tend to roost and nest in groups, although they typically forage on their own. The Black-Crowned Night-Heron will even nest in groups that include other species, like great blue and green herons, egrets, and ibises.

Interestingly, breeding Black-crowned Night-Heron will raise any chick that is placed in its nest. The herons apparently don’t distinguish between their own offspring and nestlings from other parents.  Another interesting behavior of black-crowned night heron’s is that the young Black-crowned Night-Herons leave the nest at the age of 1 month, but cannot fly until they are 6 weeks old.  They move through the vegetation on foot, joining up in foraging flocks at night.