What’s better than being inside on a rainy day? That’s right, being OUTSIDE on a rainy day, surveying vernal pools for amphibians!! I seriously love having a lab instructor who’s so big on nature and ecology (Shana!!) because field trips like this really make my weeks so exciting! This afternoon, we piled into a van, as per usual, and drove out a few minutes to an unassuming, forested roadside area. After walking along the road for a bit, we hopped a low barbed wire fence and began our search for vernal pools. (Apparently, some of the land we were on has recently become US Navy property, aka why we weren’t able to hit the “money pool.”)
Vernal pools are just a fancy name for temporary pools of water that accumulate in the fall and winter and dry up when warmer weather rolls around. The one we came to in the forest was larger than I’d expected—we guessed ~25 x 100 feet—and almost knee deep in its deepest parts. The floor of the pool was covered in leaf litter, and trees and shrubs grew straight out of the water, sure signs that the pool wasn’t permanent.
Now came the fun part—we started scouring the spaghnum moss lining the pond, lifting up wet leaves to try and find some amphibians. About 0.3 seconds after we’d found the pool, Shana had a four-toed salamander in her hand, which I eventually got to hold. So tiny!
We spent the next half hour or so meandering the edges of the pool to find more, but I didn’t have any luck. As a group, though, we found a few red-backed and four-toed salamanders, as well as a little spring peeper frog!! We were going to give up on eggs, though, except in completing a survey of the pool, we needed to know how deep it was. Two of my classmates in waders walked out to the middle of the pool, where they found some wood frog EGGS! (I put a video on my Snapchat story and at least 3 people so far have asked me what they are. Frog eggs are so cool!) So all in all, a successful adventure—it didn’t even feel like school or work! And as always, I feel so lucky to go to school just minutes away from so much nature, with people to teach me all the naturalist excitement that Maine has to offer.
P.S. Contributing to vernal pool assessments is also a fun and simple way to engage in citizen science, which I think is super cool! What are your favorite citizen science projects, past or ongoing?