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wood frog. Photo by Bet Zimmerman.  

Because vernal pools are temporary, amphibian eggs are safe from fish. More....

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- by G. Jacobsen, C. Coughlin, C. Dzirua-Duke and E.A. Zimmerman

It’s finally springtime.  Daffodils are poking through the thawing soil, as hoardes of blackbirds descend on feeders and water fills basements around the Quiet Corner.  Other, sweeter harbingers of spring are the high-pitched chorus of peepers and the quacking call of wood frogs.  The first few warm, rainy nights will also bring a parade of spotted salamanders risking exposure to predators and traffic as they make their way to pools where they can reproduce.

Amphibian eggs. Photo by Cheryl Dziura-Duke.
Vernal pools are a treasure trove of biodiversity. To report the location of a vernal pool in Pomfret, Woodstock, or Canterbury, call 860-928-4948. Amphibian egg mass photo by Cheryl Dziura-Duke of the Woodstock Conservation COmmission.

Vernal pools are small, temporary bodies of water that provide critical amphibian breeding habitat. They are too shallow and short-lived to support fish that would eat amphibian eggs or larvae. Many other woodland residents like birds and turtles also use these pools for feeding and resting. Because vernal pools encourage biodiversity by supporting an abundance of plants and animals not found in other areas, it is important to protect them.

The first step in vernal pool preservation is finding them.  You may have a vernal pool right in your backyard or neighborhood.   Several towns have been conducting vernal pool inventories.  Vernal pool data helps local wetlands and conservation agencies make informed land use decisions.  

The Pomfret vernal pool inventory is in its fifth year.  A pilot project began in Canterbury last year.  This year (2009) marks the second season that the Woodstock Conservation Commission will partner with the Connecticut Audubon Society Center at Pomfret to locate pools. Grace Jacobson is serving as the volunteer coordinator and contact for Woodstock surveys.  

The success of these programs depends on Citizen Science volunteers who walk roads and hike in forests to listen for frogs that congregate at vernal pools.  New and experienced volunteers from Woodstock, Pomfret, and surrounding communities are needed in 2009 to help with this conservation effort. There are many ways to get involved. You can search for vernal pools on your property, report the location of a vernal pool, or document vernal pools as a trained volunteer. For information on training, contact Paula Coughlin at 860.928.4948.

Vernal Pools Introductory Programs:
Paula Coughlin, Citizen Science Coordinator, will present a slide program on the characteristics of vernal pools, breeding habits of the species that use them, and how volunteers work on this exciting project.  Please call to register – 860-928-4948. If an introductory program has to be postponed due to inclement weather, a message will be left on your voicemail.

Dates:  Thurs. March  26, 7:00 p.m. at the CT Audubon Society Center at Pomfret, Route 169.  Wed., April 1, 7:00 p.m. at the Canterbury Library
Fee: CAS members and Woodstock residents: $7.  Non-members: $15

Volunteer Training Sessions:
Volunteers who attend one 3-hour training can then collect data on their own time or visit vernal pools with the project coordinator during April and May. Please call to register at 860-928-4948. The more trained Citizen Scientist volunteers we have, the more pools we can identify.

Dates: Saturday, April 4 & April 11, Friday, April 10 - 9:00 a.m.-noon
Fee: CAS members and Woodstock residents: $7.  Non-members: $15
Location: CT Audubon Society Center at Pomfret, Route 169

Originally published in the Villager newspapers in March 13 2009.

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