Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Vernalpalooza! The Crazy World that Lies Beneath!

Spotted Salamander--Photo by Kipp Brown

Most days, I think I have one of the coolest jobs in the world.  I get to help people learn about wild animals.  It's fun, rewarding and I thoroughly enjoy it.  But once in awhile, even I get amazed at how cool my job is. 

I had the good fortune to host a workshop about vernal pools a couple weeks ago down at Shawnee State Park Lodge called Vernalpalooza.  We invited around 40 educators from across Ohio to come down for three days to learn about and experience the facinating world that is one of our most unique and, unfortunately, declining habitats in the state. 

For those that don't know, vernal pools are small, pocket wetlands that are usually found within woodland areas and only hold water in the spring and early summer, hence the term vernal.  They are free of fish, can be ground water or surface water fed, and are the nurseries to dozens of species of frogs, salamanders, aquatic invertebrates, and more.  On warm, early spring nights, especially if it's raining, you can find salamanders migrating en mass to these pools to breed.  In some parts of the state, roads are closed to traffic to minimize damage to these populations from vehicle traffic.

The objective of the workshop was for the participants to not only learn about vernal pools, but how to construct them in areas that could be used for educational purposes.  We had some outstanding and extremely knowledgeable instructors on topics such as vernal pool construction, vernal pool ecology, vernal pool monitoring, funding, collection and monitoring permits, and linkages to state education standards.  Overall, I think the participants learned a lot about these fragile and critical habitats and how to use them for education in a safe and ethical manner.

Exploring the pools-Photos by Jim McCormac
But, the best part for me was the field trip! We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to access the General Electric Jet Engine Testing Grounds in Adams County.  This 7,000 acre property is literally out in the middle of nowhere.  And, fortunately, it has been left alone for the most part on the areas that are not used by GE.  So, there are some phenomenal examples of vernal pools that we were able to explore.  We first went to a natural pool that was absolutely amazing.  You couldn't move without seeing spotted salamanders and their egg masses, some lingering Jefferson's and their egg masses, wood frogs and egg masses, fairy shrimp, and we were even fortunate to find a fairly rare four-toed salamander hiding under the moss.  The second pool was a constructed pool and it was just as interesting, although not as productive.  It was significantly younger in age than the first pool, but you could tell it was well on its way to becoming prime habitat for the area.  It was a tremendous exploration and you could hear everyone's excitement in their voices as they walked around and found all these treasures.  Some squealed with delight, others laughed with pure joy.  As a coordinator, it was so amazing to watch the sheer joy on the participant's faces.  For me, that was the best part.  Check that, I have THE coolest job in the world!

Here are some photos from the workshop.  If you'd like more information about our upcoming workshops, sign up for our E-Newsletter online at http://www.wildohio.com/  Be sure to select the Educator Edition. 

Wood Frog eggs
Photo by Jim McCormac

The Entire Crew
Photo by Kipp Brown

Spotted Salamander--Photo by Jim McCormac

No comments:

Post a Comment