Providing Information on Vernal Pools for Our Communities.

What is a Vernal Pool?

Naturally occurring, temporary to semi-permanent pools occurring in shallow depressions in forested landscapes. Vernal pools provide the primary breeding habitat for wood frogs, blue- spotted and spotted salamanders, and fairy shrimp and provide habitat for other wildlife including several endangered and threatened species.

Blue-Spotted Salamanders

Blue-Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma laterale) are rare in Maine, and are a state listed Species of Special Concern. As the smallest of the mole salamanders in Maine, they grow to between 3 and 5 inches long.  Blue-Spotted Salamanders migrate an average of 73 meters from their underground burrow to a vernal pool to breed.

Unisexual Salamanders

Unisexual Salamanders (Ambystoma laterale x jeffersonianum) are more common than Blue-spotted Salamanders, but rely on this other salamander to reproduce. As their name implies, nearly all Unisexual Salamanders are female. In order to reproduce, this lineage must parasitize sperm from the Blue-Spotted Salamander.


In nature, the littlest things can have the biggest impact – Washington Post

The importance of small natural features was recently highlighted by The Washington Post. Click Here to view the article.

Look Who’s Graduating!

Like tadpoles growing their legs, two of our students are metamorphing into graduates. They flowed through swamps, scientific literature, and statistics and are upwelling into the pool of professional ecologists.

Kelli Straka will be defending her Master’s thesis on characterizing hydrologic patterns in Maine’s vernal pools in late April. Kelli, a water and wetland enthusiast, is a student in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences. Her thesis work helps provide a better understanding of baseline hydrologic data for Maine’s vernal pools and will help characterize the major sources and sinks of water for six vernal pools. Kelli will move on to the job world in May–hopefully landing an environmental consulting job. She hopes to continue working in wetlands (she’s drawn to them like runoff to a floodplain) and looks forward to improving our understanding of the unique hydrology of these amazing places.

The newly minted Doctor Kristine Hoffmann successfully defended her dissertation at the end of January. Kris is a herpetologist, and has spent most of her life learning and teaching others about amphibian and reptiles. Her dissertation work provided new information about the habitat use and ecology of Blue-Spotted Salamanders and Unisexual Salamanders, but also provides new questions about these puzzling amphibians. Luckily, she graduated at a time when we were seeking to hire a Post-Doctoral Fellow so she will be able to rise to these questions. (We know they’ve been keeping her up at night!) Kris will stay with us for another 15 months as she probes into the sex life of Unisexual Salamanders, tracks amphibians in suburban neighborhoods, creates vernal pool outreach materials, and helps teach our Wetlands Ecology and Conservation Course.

Good Luck Kelli! Glad to keep you, Kris!

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