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How Will Vernal Pool Conservation Work in Different Types of Maine Towns?

Abigail Kaminski, Research Associate, Clark University

Vernal pools are important landscape features (see our posts about their importance here and here. Decisions that lead to the preservation of vernal pools and the lands that surround them are made at an individual level (landowners make decisions about what to do with their property), and on a town level (towns implement policies and management strategies that regulate development and land use). We’re interested in protecting these unique and important features in a way that takes into account the diverse and interacting factors that help define towns across Maine. […]

Ranavirus: a Cold-Blooded (Amphibian) Killer

Carly Eakin, Graduate Researcher, University of Maine

The past three summers I have surveyed wood frog tadpoles and spotted salamander larvae in over 30 vernal pools around Bangor, Maine, collecting data on their population status and individual body conditions. This means handling a lot of tadpoles and larval salamanders: Between me and my steadfast field crew we have carefully measured over 10,000 tadpoles and salamanders. […]

Why is there Mercury in that Vernal Pool?

Lydia Kifner, MS Researcher, University of Maine; Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Carly Eakin, PhD Researcher, University of Maine; Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology

Many people know mercury (Hg) as the toxic metal that was used to make thermometers, but you might not know that it can also be found in vernal pools. It is a naturally occurring metal that in certain forms and exposures is a toxin that can be damaging to humans and other animals. Although pollution from some human activities (e.g. coal combustion, improper waste disposal) deposit mercury in the environment, there are also several natural sources of mercury. […]

For Frog’s Sake, Keep the Snow Coming!

Thomas Hastings, Scientific Research Specialist, University of Maine

The ability of wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) to freeze during the winter is impressive. The rapid synthesis of glucose as a cryoprotectant decreases the damages resulting from intracellular ice formation. Water is also moved out of organs to reduce the severity of ice formation within the body (Costanzo et al., 2013). Wood frogs, unlike other amphibians, hibernate at the soil surface and do not avoid freezing temperatures as a winter survival strategy. […]

Q&A with Doctor Kristine Hoffmann

Kristine Hoffmann, Post Doctoral Researcher, University of Maine

What is the best way to see adult Spotted Salamanders and Wood Frogs?

There are a few good ways to view these animals, and it helps if you know when Big Night will be. Big Night is the first warm (above 40° F), rainy night of the year. It is the night when the air smells like mud for the first time and you start to find earthworms on the surface. Once it has been raining long enough, the ground will be saturated and the vernal pool amphibians will eager to breed. Most of the Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum), Wood Frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus), Blue-Spotted Salamanders (A. laterale), and Unisexual Salamanders (A. laterale-jeffersonianum) will all migrate in one or a couple of nights – hence the name “Big Night”. They will only be in the pools for about 2 to 3 weeks, and if you miss this window you might have to wait another year to get your eyes on these cryptic animals. Big Night occurs in March in Massachusetts, between Mid-March and Early-April in Southern Maine, and in Mid-April here in the Greater Bangor Area. […]