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NOAA and NEMIGLSI Study Vernal Pools with Students

Vernal pools are small puddles that appear in the woods and wetlands, and are home to a number of specific wildlife.

Members of NOAA and the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative invited high school students out to Norway Ridge Pathway in Alpena to study these vernal pools.

“We as a school group decided to go out and try to help identify and confirm the presence of these vernal pools,” said Stewardship and Education Specialist Daniel Moffatt.

The pools will have the best presence of wildlife in the late April-early May window, and they are home to things like salamanders, wood frogs, and ferry shrimp, a small organism the students came upon when they found their first vernal pool.

“It was the first one that I had ever seen and for the students as well, and it was the first pool that we came upon at Norway Ridge, so we were excited and thrilled to start the day by finding that really unique species,” said Moffatt.

When the summer gets underway, the pools dry up and the organisms that lived there move on. Then, new organisms will occupy the dry area where the vernal pools once were.

“They tend to come back to these areas each year, right?” said Moffatt. “So they go off into the woods for the other times of the year, but every spring they come back to these vernal pools, have a little party, lay some eggs, and start that next generation of organisms.”

The students, who ranged from 9th grade to 12th grade, had visited the paths before, but had never done so while searching for and studying vernal pools.

“I’d say every one of them had a really good time,” said Moffatt. “We were excited to be out there. We had beautiful weather, and like I said, the first pool we checked, we found some of those really unique species, so it was a great day out in the field.”

The students arrived at 9:15 am, and studied vernal pools until 11:30 am.