Our chapter is starting a new Citizen Science project to locate and monitor vernal pools in our region. In support of this, we had a training session on Saturday, April 6 that started at McKinney Science Center at Bridgewater College and ended at Deep Run Ponds Natural Area Preserve. Dr. Anne Wright, director of Life Sciences Outreach at Virginia Commonwealth University and Susan Watson, Fish and Wildlife Information Services Biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries office in Henrico were our presenters.
Vernal pools are “seasonal wetlands”: they begin to fill with water in late fall, then dry up in the summer. Because they’re not permanent, fish can’t live in them. This is important for many species of amphibians, since fish would eat their eggs and larvae. In fact, there are six salamander species and two frog species in Virginia which are obligate vernal pool dwellers in the early part of their life cycle, and a number of other species which use them if they’re available.
After the classroom presentations, we all made our way to Deep Run Ponds near Port Republic. Gavin Lawson, professor of biology at Bridgewater College, joined us there and described the ongoing research he does with his students at this protected area known or its sinkhole ponds. We were able to locate and examine egg masses for a couple of salamander species, as well as some adult critters that had found their way into the traps Dr. Lawson places as part of his research project.
The Vernal Pools Monitoring Project is scheduled to get underway this coming fall.
– Carl Droms, Cohort II, April 2019
Top photo at Deep Run Ponds by Carl Droms. Photos below by Carl, and Shelley Baker. Click on a photo below to enlarge it and see the others as a slide show.