Practicum Project | 2022

Protecting endangered arroyo toad species through habitat suitability modeling and data analysis


Amphibians are projected to disappear in more than half their habitats in the next 20 years due to their extreme sensitivity (USGS). The loss of such a vital group impacts not only the aesthetic value of nature, but also the availability of resources that all living organisms, including us, rely on. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is a federal agency that monitors species throughout the US that are vulnerable to population decline and protects those that are in significant danger by listing them within the fe

deral Endangered Species Act (ESA). As part of the ESA listing protocol, there is a status review conducted every 5 years to analyze factors that influence the success of a species. Our practicum team will collect current information about the arroyo toad (Anaxyrus californicus), which the USFWS will use in developing the toad’s 5-year status review.


What is the Arroyo Toad?

The Arroyo Toad is an endangered species of toad that is native to California and some areas in Mexico. The arroyo toad is mostly tan and white with dark spots that help it camouflage to its habitat. Arroyo Toads commonly live and breed in shallow stream beds that have a slowly moving current. Unfortunately, climate change has resulted in the drying of many streams that would be suitable for the Arroyo Toads. Habitat loss as well as predation by invasive species have resulted in declining Arroyo Toad populations.

Our role

The overarching goal of this practicum project is to deliver a detailed report on the current status of the arroyo toad to the USFWS to determine how to distribute federal conservation efforts amongst endangered species. To do this, we have split into three sub-teams. The first team is focused on analyzing historic data from Piru Creek, a known Arroyo Toad habitat in Ventura County. The second team, is conducting a case study on Piru Creek to determine the impacts that a planned water release can have on invasive species and Arroyo Toad reproductivity. Finally, the third team is working to create a habitat suitability model to determine areas where the Arroyo Toad could survive given the conditions. 

View our Final Report

Client: USFWS & USGS

Our Team: Alin Rangel, Darby Gaffney, David Blake, Emilee Hosking, Gavin Hughes, Grecia Velasquez, Harlan Le, Jaelene Clarisse Salas, Michael Palermo, Natalie Quah

Advisors: Brad Shaffer (UCLA La Kretz Center Director and Distinguished Professor) & Dave Daversa (Postdoctoral Fellow)