I’m used to being greeted by a chorus when I get to the farm. A chorus of toads. Singing for sex. Crude, I know, but it’s springtime in Pennsylvania, and that means it’s mating season.
It’s an incredible sound—a high pitched, ringing that cuts through the night. A female toad could hear that call from a mile away. I just love it.
But tonight is quiet. Only the sound of our boots on the wet grass. That’s not good.
I’ve only been doing this research for one month. One month. And my research team decides to abandon me at the farm. With our advisor. He’s judging my every move. Judging me because there aren’t any toads. Why are there no toads?
Usually we go to the farm and we catch toads. We catch a lot of toads. Like, 40 a night. Or more! We process and tag every toad before letting the sex-crazy amphibians go.
“Where are all the toads?” he says.
… “I don’t know” I say.
We replicate the toad call, franticly, fanatically, to no avail. We’re at the second to last pond by now, still no toads.
But then! Our flashlights catch the glint of an eye. We creep forward, angling so we can catch this one, singular… Frog!
Not a frog! Oh, my heart. To say that I’m now emotionally wrecked is an understatement.
“Bullshit” I whisper.
“No,” he says, “Bullfrog.”
Not only have we failed to catch any toads, but we found a frog, which is one of the toad’s main competitors for breeding grounds. I follow my advisor from this pond and on to the last one, cursing at the frog that chose this night of all nights to make an appearance.
We end the night by packing up our buckets, nets, syringes, Ziploc bags, rulers, and notebooks. The tromp back to the truck is a silent one.
“There should have been toads,” I say.
He says he’s just bad luck, jokingly.
The next night, my research team and I return to the farm. We’re greeted by a chorus of toads… Maybe he is bad luck.