Help us protect vernal pools and the wildlife that depends on them!
Vernal pools are ephemeral bodies of standing water that typically form in the spring from snow melt and dry out completely in the heat of summer. Vernal pools are vital breeding areas for frogs, salamanders, and fairy shrimp since the fact that they dry out prevents predatory fish from taking up residence in the water. Some amphibian species are in stark decline with populations likely to be halved in the next 20 years if actions are not taken now to help. One important way to help is to protect amphibian habitat by certifying vernal pools through the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (NHESP).
Taking the Plunge
In 2019, Hilltown Land Trust teamed up with Westfield Wild and Scenic and local naturalist Charley Eiseman to create a 3-day vernal pool certification training, aka the Vernal Pool Plunge. People who participated in the training gained skills in locating vernal pools, identifying and photographing vernal pool wildlife, and completing the NHESP on-line certification process. They are now their towns’ vernal pool representatives.
Participants were recruited from 16 towns served by Hilltown Land Trust and/or part of the Westfield River Wild & Scenic designation: Ashfield, Becket, Chester, Chesterfield, Conway, Cummington, Goshen, Huntington, Middlefield, Plainfield, Savoy, Washington, Westhampton, Williamsburg, Windsor, and Worthington.
By the end of 2019, seven vernal pools were newly certified as a result of this program!
How you can help
- Take a walk in your back woods in spring and see if you can locate a vernal pool on your land (listening for frog calls in the evening can help).
- Find out if you have a potential vernal pool on your land by using MassGIS on-line mapping tool OLIVER.
- Reach out to a local conservation organization or town vernal pool representative to learn more about finding and protecting vernal pools in your area.
- Contact Hilltown Land Trust if you are interested in participating in the next vernal pool plunge or if you have a vernal pool on your land.
- Charley Eiseman’s VP Certification video
- NHESP Heritage Hub
- MassGIS-OLIVER Tool
- MassWildlife Vernal Pool Field Guide
- Vernal Pool Association
- Mass Audubon: Vernal Pool
- Vernal Pool Listserv
- Vernal Pools & Wildlife – Town of Foxborough, MA
- Discovery News: Vernal Pools Spring to Life video
- Fairy Shrimp Video
- Why are frog and toad populations declining? article