Mission: Vernal Pool Egg Masses

missionvpeggmass_033114_4ggreenteam.jpg
Salamander egg masses, VS user 4ggreenteam

Research Question

How is climate change affecting reproduction in amphibians that breed in vernal pools?

You're Invited

In this warming climate, vernal pools are likely to experience significant changes. Warmer temperatures could lead to rapid snowmelt and earlier filling of vernal pools in the spring. Recurring droughts may change the timing of when the pools dry out. What will happen to the species that rely on vernal pools to reproduce? Help us track how these changes are affecting wood frog and salamander eggs in vernal pools.

Mission Steps

missionvpeggmass_041117_34bred.jpg
Wood frog, VS user 34bred
  1. Determine the best time in the spring to complete the mission. Use this map to help you.
  2. Gather your materials for fieldwork, including:
  3. Head out to your vernal pool. Look around for either wood frog, spotted, or blue-spotted salamander egg masses. Record evidence of what you do or do not find on your Vital Signs Freshwater Species and Habitat Survey.
  4. Record the stage of development for each egg mass found and the total number that you found in your field notes. Write down the amount of time you spent searching for egg masses, too.
  5. Post your "found" or "not found" observations to Vital Signs. Remember that not found data matters!
missionvpeggmass_042817_4rpurple_0.jpg
Spotted salamander egg mass, VS user 4rpurple

Note: Use caution collecting data in this fragile habitat!

  • No more than two people in the pool at one time.
  • Limit your steps in the pool as they may disturb the egg masses.
  • Leave egg masses attached to vegetation or sticks. Larvae and adult specimens can be temporarily removed from the pool to be photographed.
  • If you plan to visit multiple vernal pools, spray down your boots with a diluted bleach solution far from the pool. Do NOT wear boots with felt into multiple pools. This will prevent the spread of disease from one pool to another.

Why this Mission Matters

missionvpeggmass_042517_4hgreen.jpg
Wood frog egg mass, VS user 4hgreen

Vernal pools are unique habitats because they appear each spring and dry up in the late summer. This makes them ideal locations for wood frogs, spotted, and blue-spotted salamanders to lay their eggs, since they are safe from most predators. These amphibians are known to return to the same pool where they hatched year after year. Even if the pool is altered or destroyed, they will continue to return to the same site. The species that live in vernal pools rely on a balance of precipitation and evaporation to reproduce. If the pools dry out too early in the season, eggs may not have time to develop. If there is too much precipitation, predators may come to inhabit the pools. In this fast-changing climate that has been resulting in shorter winters and drier summers, we need to monitor the impact on wood frog and salamander eggs so that we can determine how to protect these species!

Teacher Resources

Find useful information for conducting this investigation with your class on the Mission: Vernal Pool Egg Masses Teacher Resources page.