The Big Ecological Roles of Small Natural Features

Orono, Maine — Ecologists and conservationists have long recognized that keystone species have major ecological importance disproportionate to their abundance or size. Think beavers, sea stars and prairie dogs — species that keep a ecosystem balanced. […]

A Question, Answered

We recently had a question from a concerned follower:

Question: “This morning I just discovered 20 dead tadpoles at the edge of my backyard vernal pool. They appear to be green frogs but I can’t say for sure. I also found 3 live ones swimming around them. Also 4 full grown green frogs hopping at the edge of this area. This vernal pool is about 3ft deep in the middle and is so large that it usually is not dry until Sept 1. It’s about 40 ft in diameter. I have been watching over this pool for 20 years and I have never seen a die-off before. Any advice? What can I do? Can I test the water or the tads for ranavirus or pollution? Is there a vernal pool expert in my area that could help? – Johanna”
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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. […]