Mission: Vernal Pool

Dan Hocking

Research Question

Where are Maine's vernal pools? Is your pool a vernal pool?

You're invited

Henry Ingwerson and Wells Elementary students are interested in finding out where vernal pools are in Maine and if a pool of water is a vernal pool. Vernal pools are a really important habitat for many native species in Maine, so join us! 

Mission Steps

Flickr user colleengreene
  1. Print out the species cards for these vernal pool indicator species: wood frog, spotted salamander, and fairy shrimp.
  2. Print a survey datasheet
  3. Look for still standing water. Then look for and document evidence of the presence or absence of the indicator species
  4. If there are any egg masses, count how many you can find and include it in your field notes
  5. Decide based on your evidence if you think you've found a vernal pool, you can include that in your field notes, too
  6. Post your "found" or "not found" observations
  7. Monitor your site over time to see what native species use it and what invasive species may be impacting it
Photo by Dan Hocking

Why this mission matters

What is a vernal pool? A vernal pool is a body of still water that dries up in the summer. They are often mistaken for a ‘mud puddle’ and can suffer from habitat destruction. While this summertime vanishing act makes vernal pools hard to track, it's also what makes them critical habitat for many species. Because they dry up vernal pools do not support predator species like fish, making them important breeding habitat for many amphibian species and more!

Vernal means it has to do with spring. That's when you'll find these pools teaming with life. Sometimes people call them ephemeral ponds.


Great idea for a long term mission. There is tons of meaningful data out there and many citizen scientists willing to check out vernal pools. The timing of this mission is perfect for Vital Signers planning on getting out for field work in the spring.

This data would also be very useful to scientists that use Signs of the Seasons: A New England Phenology Program. http://umaine.edu/signs-of-the-seasons/

Check it out.