One of the greatest challenges to developing a national monitoring plan is the highly regional nature of amphibians in North America. Amphibians occupy diverse habitats that require specialized sampling techniques. Just as no single technique is capable of sampling all of the amphibians in the US, the status of amphibians across the country is not influenced by the same factors. This diversity argues for a highly regionalized approach to amphibian monitoring and research. However, it is also important to integrate these regional programs in a way that allows a national synthesis and analysis to be conducted at a range of spatial scales.
USGS has organized the ARMI Program around a pyramid conceptual model to achieve regional and national assessments of status and trends (Figure 1). Extensive and necessarily coarse analyses are carried out at the national level (Base of the pyramid), while intensive efforts conducted as research projects are underway at a relatively small number of sites (Apex of the pyramid). The Mid-level of the pyramid is where most of the analysis and reporting occurs in ARMI. The status of amphibians is reported as changes in occupancy over time at the Mid-level and this information is used to identify questions for more intense research at the Apex level. ARMI was designed as a muilti-disciplinary program. Being able to ask questions through a combined efforts of biological and water researchers has been one of its strengths.