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Vernal Pool Mapping

Vernal Pools are very difficult to map. Their small size and location within forested areas make certain they rarely appear on aerial photos.  And while pool mapping models exist, we've found that the best way to find functioning vernal pools - areas where "obligate" species are breeding - is to have landowners, neighbors, and passersby identify and submit key areas to us. 

We have a project underway where we are creating a database of vernal pools, and areas where Vernal Pool Obligate Species breed.  This database can then be used to

  • study the extent of the habitat type
  • determine historical factors affecting pool and amphibian survival
  • identify key areas for road restoration that increases habitat access for amphibians and decreases road mortality
  • and help us define suitable areas for restoration of the pools destroyed

There are several ways to participate:

Identify an amphibian crossing area and submit information about it online - this page is NEW! Use an online map to identify the lat/long of the site, and submit the data to us online
Identify a pool where Vernal Pool Amphibians are breeding and fill out the online form this page is NEW! Use an online map to identify the lat/long of the site, and submit the data to us online
download this short mapping form and submit information through the mail

Here is a little background:

Vernal pools are small, isolated wetlands that provide habitat to many amphibian species. True vernal pools provide habitat to Wood Frogs, Spring Peepers, the Spotted Salamander and Jefferson Salamander (up to 10 inches long and pictured left). These pools generally dry up on a regular basis maintaining a relatively predator-free and safe environment for salamander and frog larvae. 

The salamanders that depend on vernal pools are members of the mole salamander family, and much like their namesake they spend most of their lives underground. They remain above ground for the duration of their trek to the vernal pool, the time spent in the pool laying eggs (sometimes as little as one evening) and for their trip back to the forest. The fact that these salamanders and frogs all make their annual journey at the same time, the first warm rainy night of spring known as the “Big Night”, makes it a very interesting time to be in the forest.

When it comes to mapping vernal pools, often landowners are familiar with a depression on their property that holds water for part of the year, but they are not aware that the pool might host the annual amphibian mass migration. By going to check the pool for obligate amphibians during the “Big Night” the migration can be observed, and recorded for our database. 

For someone who does not know of a pool that they have access to, the “Big Night” can still be observed by taking a drive. By driving around during the annual migration, and marking on a map the locations of amphibian crossing spots three objectives can be accomplished:

  • Volunteers will have the opportunity to help amphibians cross the road that otherwise may have been squished (as long as the volunteers are very cautious!!).
  • The areas in which vernal pool amphibians are found crossing roads can be identified for DOT and other groups who have expressed interest in creating salamander tunnels in areas where they could be helpful (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/critter_crossings/salamand.cfm)
  • And lastly, since the mole salamander family has been found to travel less than 300 yards from their breeding pool/ vernal pool, when these salamanders are found crossing a road it means their destination pool is within a few hundred yards.

Any potential pool that is identified will allow the Upper Susquehanna Coalition to contact the landowner asking them whether they are interested in including the pool in our database. Where landowners are interested, we will provide them with information about vernal pools and signs to place by the pools. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about our environment and to help a few salamanders in the process.

For more information about our vernal pool program visit our website: 
http://www.u-s-c.org/vppage or contact us at ephemeralpools@u-s-c.org 

Helpful Mapping Documents:

Tips for Salamander Hunters (word document)
Short Vernal Pool Mapping Form with submission information (.pdf)













Upper Susquehanna Coalition
Main Office: 183 Corporate Drive - Owego, NY 13827 - (607) 687-3553
Coordinator: Wendy Walsh - 183 Corporate Drive - Owego, NY 13827 - (607) 687-3553 wwalsh@u-s-c.org