A vernal pool in Strafford

Citizen Scientists Needed to Monitor Vernal Pools in Norwich


Submitted a year ago
Created by
Liza Morse, VCE Americorps Member

Any winter-weary resident of the Northeast knows to look for emerging plant life and the return of colorful songbirds as a sign that spring is approaching. Those lucky enough to live near a vernal pool are also serenaded by chorusing frogs that herald the changing season. Vernal pools are small, seasonal wetlands that provide essential breeding habitat for many woodland creatures, from amphibians to invertebrates. Despite their ecological importance and vulnerability, vernal pools are poorly monitored across our region.

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In 2018, the Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE) will kick off a new citizen science effort – the Vermont Vernal Pool Monitoring Project – to remedy that. Despite the well-recognized importance of vernal pools to a host of wildlife, their locations in Vermont have only been recently documented, and we know almost nothing about how the animals inhabiting them are faring. With help from volunteer enthusiasts in Norwich and elsewhere across the state, the Monitoring Project plans to address this knowledge gap.

This timely undertaking follows VCE’s earlier Vermont Vernal Pool Mapping Project, a statewide citizen science effort that began in 2009 and is ongoing, as there are potential vernal pools still in need of on-the-ground verification. The Monitoring Project is distinct from the Mapping Project in that it will provide VCE, as well as our partners in local and state agencies and other conservation groups, with much-needed data on the health of Vermont’s vernal pools over time. Citizen scientists will collect standardized field data that range from weather conditions, to land use around surveyed pools, to counts of breeding amphibians. Currently in the planning stages, VCE will pilot this citizen-science project early in the spring of 2018.

Wood Frog, a classic vernal pool-breeding amphibian

Data from the Mapping Project indicate that Norwich and other Upper Valley Vermont towns offer many opportunities for vernal pool monitoring. The Mapping Project revealed our region to be particularly rich in potential vernal pools – 8 of Vermont’s top 10 towns with vernal pools are in the Upper Valley. Norwich boasts the single highest number of potential vernal pools statewide at 158, although only 10 of those have been field-verified. Data from the Monitoring Project, as well as additional verification of mapped pools in the Upper Valley and beyond, will provide state agencies, local municipalities, and non-profit entities with needed information to improve conservation planning via better understanding of these critical, but often overlooked, wetland habitats.

Anyone can contribute to VCE’s efforts by signing up to be a Vernal Pool Monitor and/or Mapper next spring. Please lend a hand; the success of this project depends on volunteers who will visit “adopted” pools on an annual basis to assess their biological and physical features. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Liza Morse at emorse@vtecostudies.org and visit VCE’s Monitoring Project web page: www.vtecostudies.org/projects/forests/vernal-pool-conservation/vermont-vernal-pool-monitoring-project. Grab your rubber boots, head outdoors, and become a citizen scientist!

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