Determine Your Site Size
If you plan to monitor birds and even larger mammals, like deer and tree squirrels, you can monitor a large site of say 200 acres, such as a park. The entire 200 acre park would be a single monitoring area for most birds and some mammals.
Amphibians, reptiles and many small mammals are less mobile and require smaller areas to survive. If you want to monitor these wildlife groups, focus your attention on a particular location within the larger area. Reptiles and amphibians are restricted to microhabitats where they can stay cool and moist, feed, attract a mate, and reproduce. Small mammals may be restricted to an area with adequate cover and food.
More than likely, there will be an identifiable spot that attracts these species to your monitoring area - a wetland, pond, river, woody ravine, fence row, or rocky outcrop, for example. These microhabitats are where you would concentrate your monitoring efforts. The microhabitat can be a separate, smaller monitoring site within your larger site.
If on the other hand your site size is determined more by your activity (i.e. canoeing), then you will want to establish your site size another way. Rivers present a special challenge because they are spread out over such long distances, especially if you are in a canoe for a 15-mile journey. Break the river up into manageable segments. This will give the data more precision. If you just want to document what you see along each segment, then detail is not your priority. However, if you happen to find that rare otter den, or an endangered wood turtle sunning on a log, it would be very beneficial if you identified the precise location of such an occurrence. Again, "microhabitats" often play a crucial role in where wildlife are found. Wildlife managers need to be able to locate these sites and document their importance to some species.
What if you don't want to provide that much detail when identifying wildlife locations? Certainly, Iowa NatureMapping will accept any wildlife data you collect, even if you don't wish to distinguish separate, more precise monitoring sites for certain species. Just remember that, for certain species, more precise location information produces more useful information for management purposes.