Biological Monitoring for MoCo

Field Reports from Department of Environmental Protection Staff

  • April 2009
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Vernal Pools

Posted by mocobio on April 1, 2009

Here’s what a seasonal pool looks like.  They’re often just depressions and natural wet spots that fill with water in the wet spring, in forested areas.  They’re all over the landscape, near streams, in forests.  The majority of amphibians and reptiles live in and around streams, or in these seasonal pools.  These seasonal pools often dry up in the heat of the summer.  But in the springtime, they are a key wildlife habitat, and provide critical breeding grounds for our amphibians and reptiles.

seasonal wetland pool in early spring

seasonal wetland pool in early spring

We’re finding a number of calling frogs such as wood frogs, northern spring peepers, pickerel frogs and toads, as well as spotted salamanders, out this time of year. We’re noting their numbers, and looking for any anomalies on their bodies.

  The presence of adult frogs and salamanders doesn’t offer a complete assessment. We’re also searching pools for signs of successful breeding, such as egg masses or larvae, to make sure these species are surviving. Some spotted salamanders often return to the same pool annually for several years to breed…and they can live over 20 years.

Looking for tadpoles in a vernal pool
Looking for tadpoles in a vernal pool 

These pools are critical in the stream network. Pools are also a key wildlife habitat, and they are critical for breeding success. 

When monitoring frogs and salamanders, County biologists follow strict protocols to sanitize boots and equipment to minimize the risk of introducing diseases, pathogens and invasive species into the seasonal wetland pools.   

Tadpole Detail in a vernal pool

Tadpole Detail in a vernal pool

 These tadpoles have hatched from the egg masses within the past week. 

Interested in looking for vernal pools and their frogs and salamanders?  Please help maintain the ecological balance of pools by staying out of the pools and their surrounding moisture zones.  Interested residents can check with the County’s nature centers about guided walks and educational materials on seasonal pools and their wildlife.  Visit:


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2 Responses to “Vernal Pools”

  1. Ed Murtagh said

    This should be shared with the Parks maintenance staff. Vernal pools are valuable! In the Northwest Branch Park, a few years ago many vernal pools along the trail near Kemp Mill Road were drained because they were perceived as a problem. These pools would be full of tadpoles every spring. While hiking along the trail we would hear choruses of frogs and toads. Now that the vernal pools are drained, the park is much quieter…..

  2. […] Vernal Pools […]

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