Wild Spartans: Searching for Vernal Pools with Yu Man Lee

March 9, 2021

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Take a look into life working with fisheries and wildlife! Follow along as we climb through bogs, peer into bear dens, mist net songbirds, snorkel for fish, or perhaps even tag deer. Meet researchers, learn about their field work, and the education and career path they've followed to get there.

In this episode, we will take a dive into the springtime ephemeral pools in the woods to discover the treasures within! We will talk to a herpetologist about researching and conserving amphibians and reptiles. Meet Yu Man Lee, Conservation Scientist, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, learn about her field work, and the education and career path she followed to get there.

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Video Transcript

(music “Enthusiasm” by Jay Man is licensed under CC BY 2.0) (crickets chirping) Good evening. Hello. Hello! to my 4-H family. It's so good to see you all here tonight. Thanks so much for joining us on this Wild Spartans, Our monthly wildlife series. This program is created by Michigan 4-H, Michigan State University Extension, MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. We have over a 131 families that have registered for this series. We're glad to see you all here. We also have guests from out-of-state. We have registrants from California, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Utah, Illinois and Canada. We're glad to see you all here. Some of you have registered each and every single month. You don't need to do that. One time registration will get you an invitation. And Zoom links to every single monthly series. Tonight's moderators. Let me introduce the team that we have here. My name is Laura Quist, I am a 4 H program coordinator with the focus on shooting sports and environmental and outdoor education. I'm based in Wexford county. Also on the call tonight is Anne Kretschman, she is representing the UP, she was from Houghton and Keweenaw counties. Veronica Bulhuis from Kalamazoo county and supports the 4-H programs there. And Seth Martin is 4-H staff from McComb County, also the final member from our Wild Spartan steam as Dr. Alexa Warwick. She's a wildlife engagement specialist with MSU Extension and also the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife based in East Lansing. But some of you are new to 4-H. Let me tell you just a little bit about it before we move on with tonight's programming. 4-H is typically thought of as agricultural in nature, providing programs in plows and cows. But actually, we're Michigan's largest statewide youth development organization. And we focus on a variety of project areas, in this monthly series 4-H Wild Spartans. We will explore careers in wildlife conservation. Scientists involved in field work we will follow along with them as they climb through bogs. peer into bear dens, mist net songbirds, snorkel with fish, and perhaps even tag some deer. We'll meet researchers and learn about their fieldwork and the education and career paths they followed to get there. And if you're interested, you can even join a wildlife themed 4 H club in your own community. Our program tonight will last around 45 minutes. All participants will be muted and your cameras will remain off. If you type into the chat, all 4-H staff on the call will see it and we'll respond to you. We will also ask that participants on the call change your name so only your first name and last initial appears on your Zoom screen. If you need help with that, just type into the chat and let us know, we can change that for you. And I've already done that for several folks on the call. If you have a question for our guest speaker and be prepared with lots of questions. Use the Q&A feature at the bottom of the screen there. Type your questions into there, and we will stop at points throughout tonight's program to pause and answer to those questions as we go. Tonight's session is being recorded. But remember only the presenter and the moderators will appear on the video. All of your cameras again, it'll be off tonight during the recording. After the after the program has completed. The recording will be available on the Wild Spartans website page and you may Share that with as many folks as you like. And at this point, I'd like to turn the rest of the program over to Dr. Alexa Warwick so she could introduce night's special guest speaker. Thanks, Laura, and I am really thrilled to have Yu Man Lee here tonight, who is a conservation scientist and a zoologist. She works with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory. So you'll hear this acronym tonight. MNFI Which stands for Michigan Natural Features Inventory, which is actually part of Extension. So Yu Man has been working for MNFI for over 20 years to help guide and inform the conservation of Michigan's plants, animals, and natural communities, especially those that are rare and declining. Her work has focused primarily on rare amphibian and reptile species, as well as their habitats, including species like the Blandings turtle, Eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes, prairie fens, and vernal pools. She conducts field research and education outreach statewide and works with a diverse set of partners as well as the general public to collect and provide information to increase awareness about these species and their habitats. That in turn can help manage and conserve them in Michigan and range wide. With that, I will turn things over to Yu Man. And I am so thrilled because I personally study reptiles and amphibians as well. So I'm very happy to have her here tonight for all of you to hear more. Thanks, Alexa. And thank you, everybody for the invitation and the opportunity to share information and thank you for coming tonight to learn about vernal pools and some of the work that I and others at MNFI and our partners around the state have been doing to better understand and help protect these unique and important wetland ecosystems and biodiversity in the state. So Alexa, ask if I could talk a little about my background. And so what I was thinking about my background, it turns out that I was thinking that Jennifer Lopez and that's her on the left in, you might know her, you probably know her. Maybe. She's a famous singer, actress, dancer all around star. So she's on the left there. And, and Jennifer Lopez and I have a few things in common I realize so is it that, is it that we're both amazing singers and dancers? Nope. Is it that we're both worth millions of dollars? Definitely not. One of us is. Not me. Is it that is it that we're both though, from New York City and we've landed our dream jobs and love doing what we do? That's a definite yes. So we're also both Leo's and the same and the same age turns out. So I think I'm probably similarly is, you know, when I was growing up and maybe when she was growing up to, you know, we knew what we wanted to do, but maybe we didn't know we could actually get there. And so I think that, you know, just wanted to say that dreams can come true with hard work and some perseverance and commitment and a little luck or a lot of luck on the way. So how did I go from growing up in New York City as a kid who didn't do anything outdoors except play in the neighborhood parks to being a conservation scientists who studies animals in the wild all over our beautiful state of Michigan? I had some role models or people who really inspired me. So Jacques Cousteau who is shown here on the left. Yeah, it was one of those people who inspired me use of French naval officer who was an explorer. He was a conservationists, a marine biologist, a filmmaker. And he actually was why people who've been credited with sort of pioneering the field of marine conservation. And he had this TV show back in the seventies called " The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau". And I watched him swimming with dolphins and whales and sharks. And I was like, I want to do that. The other person who really inspired me was Jane Goodall, who's was English. She was a researcher who studied chimpanzees. She's considered probably the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees. And I watched, that's a little picture of her with Flint. a little chimpanzee that she had studied when she was in Tanzania and she does when she was 26, she just up and left her home and went there and studied in the field and studied these chimpanzees and got to know them better than any other, anybody else. And it has worked a lot to help conserve them then. And so again, I watched a movie about her life and her research. And I was like, I want to be like her. So these two individuals really dedicated their whole life to conserving wildlife species and inspired me and so many others to go into wildlife conservation to help conserve species. And a good reminder that one person can make a difference. And so I left New York City and ended up going to school at the University of Michigan. And for my undergraduate and the School of Natural Resources. And now it's called something else. But when I was a junior and senior at U of M, I said the black bears up in the Upper Peninsula where we track them with radio, without radio telemetry and follow them around. Then when I graduated, I studied song(birds), I did some seasonal work where I worked with songbirds and looked at songbirds and pesticide levels in farm fields in Iowa. And then I also worked on some shore birds, a wetland birds out in Wyoming. A lot of our folks in the wildlife field end up doing a lot of these seasonal positions and studying a lot of different species then. And then I went to I kinda slowly moved out west and I got my master's degree from Oregon State University in Wildlife Science. And that's where I started to study amphibians then, amphibians and reptiles then, looking at some of these salamander species like the Pacific giant salamander and the cascade torrent salamander and the tail frog species in these little intermittent head-water streams in the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. And when I finished up my masters, this job at Michigan Natural Features Inventory, MNFI opened up, I applied and I got it. So I was really lucky. So MNFI is Michigan is natural heritage program and our mission is to guide the conservation of Michigan's biodiversity, by providing the highest quality scientific expertise and information or knowledge and information then. So, so that's our mission there. But so just a quick check to make sure we're all on the same page. What is, what is biodiversity? Can go ahead and put that in the chat. Maybe somebody wants to Veronica or someone can read it out? Maybe? if there's anybody has answered or Alexa, nobody's answered yet Okay. many different species, Jennifer says. Okay. Yep. So it's the variety of life that of living things that are found in an area. So like plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, et cetera then. And so that's really why this is my, my lot of ways in my dream job, I get to do science and the science that actually helps inform conservation of species and biodiversity then. So we have, we can take the approach that we take towards conservation that MNFI takes on as a Heritage Program or it's kind of twofold. So are we first look at focus on natural communities or ecosystems, which we kinda referred to as the course filter. And by focusing on the national communities and protecting some of each of these different types of ecosystems. That's going to help us and conserve and protect all, hopefully most of the species that live in those ecosystems then, and those natural communities. And then we also focus on the vulnerable species or the rare species. We call the fine filter, like those are shown here. These are endangered, threatened and special concern species then. And so combining both looking at the natural communities and trying to protect those and monitor those. And then with the species, hopefully by focusing on those two things together, we can then preserve and protect all biodiversity then in Michigan. And biodiversity is not just about how many species we have, but it's also about those relationships and connections. So all those species have, are connected in so many ways then. And you can think of it kind of like a spiderweb than where a species might be, these little nodes along the spider web and the connections are those strands in between. Those relationships that have taken years and thousands of years and millions of years to kind of develop them. And if you start to lose those species, you lose those strands, then eventually the web or those ecosystems start to fall apart then. So the more species that we can protect and maintain these ecosystems and the more connections that we have, the stronger and healthier the ecosystems. So one of the main things that MNFI does then is we maintain Michigan's natural heritage database. And so this is a database where we keep track of locations of populations of endangered, threatened and special concern species and also high-quality examples of natural communities in Michigan, especially the rare natural communities then. And we currently track over 800 species a natural communities in the database and we have over 20 thousand occurrences there. And so in order to be able to protect these vulnerable species, a natural communities, right? We have to know where they're located and how they're doing, and what threats they may be facing in order to know how do we best manage and conserve them. And so this database is used by federal and state agencies like the Michigan DNR, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, conservation groups, and other interested groups or individuals to help inform conservation and management decisions. We at MNFI we do a number of other core activity. So in order how do we get the information into the database? We do a lot of field surveys and research them to collect information. We also look at other research that other researchers have done and collect information from museums or other reports and also from the general public. So you could, you know, if you find a rare species, you can contribute information that could go into the database. We also provide information to other, like the other state and federal agencies to help inform and help them plan their conservation and management activities. And then we also develop education outreach materials and provide trainings and to help get the information out there. And we've got a lot of really cool and excellent resources on our website. The address is shown here on the slide. And I think Alexa is also going to be, it might be in the chat or will also be provided to you afterwards, after the webinar to you probably. And one of the best things about working at,MNFI is that we've got a really diverse staff. We've got plant people. The botanist, we've got ecologists who study the natural communities. And then we've got a number of different zoologists with different expertise on staff. We've got mammalogist and you see we're in the lower left-hand corner there. We're looking at some bats, so we were mist netting. And then we've got entomologists as in Dave Futrell there in the middle. That's, you know, who's been studying insects and butterflies. And up in the upper right there, on the top left, we've got Courtney who's studying actually raptors with us. She's holding up a mirror that we use to hold up, to look at a raptor nest to see how many chicks or fledgling are in that nest. And then. Ashley, on the upper right there, She's got a little tiny snail that we were looking for that's rare, that it's like a tiny speck on her finger. So we've got lots of different expertise. And we also have some people that are more computer oriented and modelling. So it's really a really great fun group of people. And then I also wanted to mention that Heritage Programs like MNFI, they're actually, there's a whole network, an international network of these Heritage Programs that we call Nature Serve part of the Nature Serve network. And so there are programs like MNFI in every state in the US and all the provinces in Canada, and also in a bunch of the countries in Latin America. If you enjoyed this work, you could potentially get a job in Michigan or in work in any other state in North America or province. And so there's lots of opportunities to do, do this kind of work. So in Michigan, I specialize in looking at the rare, in declining or threatened endangered amphibians and reptiles. And so we, in Michigan, we've got eight species of amphibians that are rare or declining. So we've got a couple of salamander species that are state endangered that are really rare. We've got four frog species that are rare or declining then, and then got a couple of these, sort of the Western Lesser Siren, which actually we thought was extinct, what was recently discovered in the state just a couple of years ago. And then the Mud Puppy, which is a species A lot of times people who are fishing may catch on their fishing rod and stuff. So and then we've got about 13 species of reptiles. Snakes or turtles, and one lizard that is rare or declining in the state. Including somebody is shown here like the Easter Massasauga which is actually a federally threatened species, that Michigan actually has more population than any other state or a province in its range. And then the Copperbelly water snake is also a federally threatened species that we have and it's probably one of the rarest snakes that we have in Michigan, where I only know it from three populations up in the range up in Michigan , Indiana, Ohio. And then we've got a couple of these turtle species, Spotted Turtle, Blandings Turtle, Wood turtle. These are freshwater turtles. And they're, as a group, one of the most threatened group of reptiles and wildlife species that we know of in the world actually. And so we do a lot of field work. I mentioned, I've worked with a lot of those species that I just showed you then where we sometimes just go out and do, we just walk around the habitat that looks good and try to find if they occur there so we can identify populations and then try to get a better handle on how those populations are doing. Sometimes though, we have to do maybe more active surveys where we might have to do some traps. You can see in the lower left corner there were setting a trap to catch some turtles like Blandings turtle. Sometimes we use cover boards to look for snakes, like the picture there where you can set the cover board out and then we look for flip the cover board to see you there snakes under there. And then on the right-hand side of the slide there is sometimes we actually do more. We take more intensive data then where we actually catch some of the snakes, like the massasauga rattlesnake. I've done a lot of work with the Eastern massasauga rattlesnake. And we actually mark them and take blood samples. we've worked with turtles where we, here I'm measuring a little baby turtle, little baby wood turtle, and then tracking them as well. So I think that's one of my favorite parts about why I love this job or is that all the fieldwork that we get to do? Pretty much six months of a year from April through September, October. And then also just a diversity of work. All the different species we get to work with then as well. So I see there's maybe some questions. Let's just stop a little bit here and take a question or two. If there are any. One of our questions is what species are rare in Michigan? So there are a lot of different, there's over, I think there's about over 700 different rare plants and animals. There's about 440 rare plants and about 330 rare animal species. So there's a lot of different species. If you go to MNFIs website, we have all the species that are either listed as threatened or endangered or a special concern in Michigan. Listed on our website then so you could take a look there. And then I, those are the the eight amphibians, reptiles and the 13 mean the 8 amphibians and the 13 reptiles that I showed you are the ones that are rare. And then one of our members said that they saw Pickerel frog in their garden. Awesome! So pickerel frogs they're, they're. There's another frog species that looks a lot like pickerel frogs, the northern leopard frog. So one of the ways to tell a pickerel frog is to look for yellow on the underside of the thigh or the leg to make sure. And then also the pattern, the blotching is more paired and square compared to a leopard frog. But the yellow on the underside of the thigh is really a good way to tell for sure if it is pickerel frog then, but that's really cool because that's a special concern species and I have not seen very many pickerel frogs during my surveys in the field. (Veronica) Do you do a lot of math in your job or is it mostly fieldwork to give information to someone else? Well, so I mean, a lot of the work that we do is trying to document a species are there and, and then to look at threats and things like that and understand their natural history. We do, there are some parts of our job that you could do in terms of like for example, we wanted to estimate population size or abundance. Then you can do some modeling with on the computer to do some calculation then. So then we do do statistics. So we run statistical tests to try to compare different results than to try to test hypotheses. So it depends on, varies from project to project. So there is some math, but a lot of it is very computer-based. So and I don't do I mean, I don't do a lot of modeling work or what I do a little bit of population estimation and some a little bit of modelling then. All right. Those are all the questions right now. Okay, Great. All right, So moving on. So it turns out that a number of the rare and common amphibians and reptiles in Michigan that I was talking about earlier are associated with vernal pools. So these really, these are really important little wetlands that provide critical habitat for a number of wildlife species. They're really important to help maintain forests, especially forest ecosystem health. And then they also provide other benefits to people. But it turns out we don't know much about them in Michigan and our current laws don't really provide a lot of protection for them. So MNFI and our other partners really trying to change this. So what are vernal pools? So they are a special type of wetland that are naturally occurring. They're seasonally flooded wetlands. So they're wet for part of the year and then dry for parts of the year. And they're usually pretty they're usually pretty small and shallow. And they, in Michigan, they tend to, they generally occur in forests then in different types of forests and in Michigan. And one of the most important things about them is that because they dry up, they can't support fish. They don't have permanent fish populations or fish can't survive in them long-term. And it turns out that's really important because fish are really, can be pretty signifigant predators on other animal species. And so when you don't have fish in these wetlands that allows some, some wildlife species, some animal species to be able to survive or do better than in other wetlands or water bodies that have fish. So we've talked about vernal pools being seasonally flooded. So generally they are wet in the spring. So this is this time a year, right about now. When we start getting rain and when the snow melts, then that's when these vernal pools will either thaw or they'll fill up with water then in the spring, then usually by late summer or fall, they'll start to dry up or they will dry up completely then. So you can see here on this slide, this is the same vernal pool on the left. It's in early May when it was full , flooded with water. And then on the right is by late June it was completely dry. Some vernal, so most vernal pools tend to dry up every year, but some vernal pools are actually what we call semi-permanent. So they might only dry up every couple of years. Or it would be five out of ten years. And so they can be a little bit bigger and maybe a little bit deeper. But they still dry up some time in during during some period of time then. And in Michigan, vernal pools generally hold water for at least two months out of the year In the spring. Vernal pools are usually, I mentioned really small and shallow. So generally they're going to be smaller than 2- 2 and a half acre, the most of them are even smaller than a half an acre. So a lot of them or maybe like the size of like a classroom. So they can be pretty small and they're usually pretty shallow, less than three feet deep. And vernal pools a generally are isolated. So that means that they're usually not surrounded by any other water or wetlands. They don't have any connections, or permanent water, at least on the surface, they might be connected to other water bodies underground, but at least on the surface they're not connected then. And again, that has implications right for that leads to contributing to how they don't have fish populations then because they're not connected to other permanent water. And vernal pools can occur in all different forest types and they occur throughout the state and all throughout the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula, you can have vernal pools. They can look different though depending on where you are. So sometimes you know a lot of the vernal pools actually don't have very much vegetation in them at all. shown on the, the upper left photo there. So they're usually in these surrounded by these dry upland forest types and they don't have any vegetation in them. But then there are some vernal pools that will have a lot of shrubs in them. Maybe like button bush or alder. Some vernal pools will have a lot of trees in them. So kinda like a forested swamp. And then some vernal pools that are more open can have a lot of these sedges and grasses and then like these marshy pools then. So you can get a lot of variety in the types of vernal pools. And the other really key characteristic or important thing about vernal pools is that there are plants and animals that are really specialized for life in a vernal pool. And we call those vernal pool indicator species then. And in Michigan, these are the four species that we think of as vernal pool indicator species. So fairy shrimp is one of them. And then the three amphibian species, blue spotted salamander, spotted salamander, and wood frog. So fairy shrimp is really cool if you ever get a chance to go out and see fairy shrimp , in a vernal pool, You really should try. It's really awesome. There's lots of videos, I think, on YouTube as well that you can take a look at. But basically there, this small little crustacean, I mean, like, like a shrimp, right? And they're only found in vernal pools, so they're only found in wetlands that don't have fish. And also their eggs need to dry and freeze before they'll hatch. And so if the vernal pool, for example, doesn't, or other wetlands that don't dry up. Then when the, then the eggs won't hatch then so the eggs will just sit in the bottom of the pool or the bottom of the wetland until the vernal pool dries and when it freezes and then the following spring when the pool fills backup with water, then that'll trigger the eggs to hatch then. The adults, shown here. Most of the adults are kinda this orange color when they are fully grown they're, about an inch long. So you can see them just with the naked eye when you look into the vernal pools and it'll be swimming upside down on their backs with their, their legs that are moving like those are the gills as well. But the only live, you'll only see the adults in the vernal pools for a couple of weeks. Just early in the spring as soon as when the vernal pool fills with water or warms up or thaws until about early to mid or late May depending on how warm of a spring it is or when the water temperatures get to be About to be about 70 degrees, then they're going to lay their eggs and then all the adults will die and then you'll just be left with the eggs in the bottom of the vernal pool then. So you only have a small window to find these fairy shrimp. And then the, the three amphibian species that are found associated with vernal pools. They can use other, they mainly use vernal pools then for breeding. So that's where they're going to go to lay their eggs and where they're, they're young or their larvae are going to develop. And, and before they metamorphose or turn into adults, adult an adult frog or adult salamander them. So I kinda think of vernal pools as I like to call them nature's nursery. And so these species actually are some of the earliest species to kinda get active in the spring. So we're just talking before the webinar starts about how, you know, it's been really warm and it's going to have some rain coming up this week. So that's really going to trigger, I think, these salamanders are going to start moving and the wood frogs that are going to start to thaw and they're going to come up from underground where they spent the winter and they're going to move then to these vernal pools. And sometimes you get the right conditions, you can end up with these mass migrations. We can get hundreds or thousands, even of the salamanders moving to these vernal pools and where they're going to mate and then lay their eggs then, and then that's where the eggs are going to develop. The larvae going to develop then. They develop really, really quickly. They usually turn into adults and leave the vernal pools by July or late July, early August. Because if they don't get the pools before the pool dries up right, then they're not going to survive then. And one of the interesting things too about these amphibians is that they tend to use, what they've been finding is that they tend to use the same pools year after year. Which is really interesting, just talks about how important it is to protect these pools that they tend to use for breeding. And just to show you some examples of (eggs), so those are wood frog eggs on the left side of the slide there. Sort of just a close-up look and then what they look like in the in the water, in the vernal pool. On the right. On the upper right there, the spotted salamander egg masses. So they tend to be firmer, kind of big globs then. Where's the wood frogs are more individual eggs that are stuck together. And then again, what they look like in the vernal pool. And the blue spotted salamander egg masses are more individual, smaller, like one or smaller clumps of eggs that are tend to be droopier that they attach to a lot of time these egg masses will attach to branches or leaf litter other structures in the vernal pool then. So why are vernal pools important? We talked about how there are really critical habitat for wildlife. There were over 550 to 700 species that have been, wildlife species, that have been document using vernal pools in the Northeast, particularly invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles are really associated with these vernal pools, but you can find all different animal species using them. Bear's use them for water, for feeding, deer will use them. We found bats using around these vernal pools, birds. So all sorts of different wildlife species use vernal pools then for lots of different reasons. We also talked about how there are rare species that use vernal pools. So some of the rare species of Michigan, like the Blandings turtle, which a lot of times you'll find in these vernal pools in the spring or small mouth salamanders are state endangered also breed in these vernal pools and spotted turtles and copper bellied water snakes are found, again foraging and over overwintering in vernal pools then. And then vernal pools like other wetlands, provide other, what we call ecosystem services. So for example, nutrients. There's a lot of these amphibians and invertebrates that are in and leaf litter that are in these vernal pools as they break down or they're providing food and energy and nutrients for other animals in the vernal pool. And then when they leave the vernal pool, they're also providing nutrients and energy then for the surrounding forest ecosystem, for other wildlife species then as well. Vernal pools also, because they hold water, they're going to help to reduce flooding in certain places. And then as a hold up water, they might help improve water quality. That water gives it time to some places to infiltrate into the ground and help recharge groundwater table then in some places. So lots of other important services that vernal pools can provide. And then we talked about how vernal pools, there's not a lot information about them and there's limited protection of vernal pools because it turns out a lot of our wetland laws that we have currently, mainly protect wetlands that are big, that are bigger than five acres and most vernal pools are smaller than five acres then. And then also wetlands that are connected to permanent water are the ones that are protected currently. And because vernal pools generally are not protected to other permanent water bodies. They don't they're not protected under the current wetland laws. So laws of protection in Michigan for vernal pools is just voluntary at this point. And then there are a lot of vernal pools like other wetlands have been lost. Or maybe they've, their condition has gotten worse on. They've been degraded for a number of different reasons. So development, where we turn, we've converted forest land into either residential areas or other commercial or agricultural areas or other development developed areas. In some cases, we've dug some of these ponds deeper to turn them into permanent ponds, timber harvesting in certain areas. But sometimes we may not realize the vernal pool is there even we've cut over them. Pollution in some cases. So vernal pools lot of times will have, can have a lot of mosquito larvae. So some places we control mosquito by putting chemicals into the, the wetlands than and so that can also impact the other invertebrates and insects and animals that are in the vernal pools. And then climate change is going to change. Can change. Temperature, can change the amount of snow, snow fall that we get or rainfall and the timing of rainfall and the amount of precipitation and all those things can affect vernal pools and how much water they have, how long they hold water, which then can affect the animals that live in them. So lots of different. Lots of different, lots of different threads going on. And because we don't have good information about vernal pools to know how many we have in the state to begin with. We don't really know how many we've actually lost or how many we still have in the state. And so that's why we need to get better information about them. So I'm going to stop now. Are there any questions before we move on? Now? Yeah, right now we have just one. So you talked a little bit about vernal pools being in the woods, that kind of stuff, can they be man-made and could that help amphibian population or hurt them? So, yeah, so there can be man-made vernal pools. So there are some vernal pools that maybe aren't currently forested, but maybe historically were forested. So you might still get you know, you'll still get some amphibians using them, but you may not get some of those. Some of the same species, like the wood frog or the spotted salamander or blue spotted salamander, they tend to use vernal pools that are in forested landscape. But you could get other amphibians then maybe in the more open ones. And then you can, there have been efforts to create, you can do the restore or even create vernal pools then. And so there has been some success doing that. It's kinda tricky. So it's better to try to protect existing vernal pools than to rely on trying to, create them, but it is possible to, to create vernal pools. And then, you know, if you can, again, some of those species that we talked about really need a lot of forest. And so it's not just the vernal pool, but you also would have to then make sure you have those other habitats around the vernal pool that the, that the species needs as well. And are there certain kinds of forest that vernal pools are typically in? They actually can occur in lots of different types of forests, but there are some that I think they tend to be more common in sort of the the beech-maple or more hardwood forests. So again, the areas where you have more the clay soils rather compared to some of the sandier areas. But you can really find vernal pools in all sorts of different forest types. Since they sometimes dry up, if somebody buys a piece of property, how would how would they know to look for a vernal pool if it's dried up already and and how would they protect it? Yeah, that's really good. That's a really good question. And that's one of the tricky things about, about vernal pools, I think is if you don't go at the right time of year, if you're not sure what to look for, then you might miss them. So I think that that happens a lot of times where we don't realize that they're there. So, you know, looking in the spring and looking for when there is water, in the fall when they dry, you can you can kinda tell if there's been a wetland in there, There's the leaf litter is really dark and black. There could be it's moist, that could be a little bit of standing water. You could look for evidence of like snails or somebody's fingernail clams that are in vernal pools when that would be in vernal pools because they're associated with water, but they can also stay in the vernal pool when it's dry. But they're not going to find fingernail clams in areas that don't hold water some period of time. So you can look for some of those, some of those things. If you go in the spring and you find fairy shrimp or some indicator species that will tell you or there's a good chance that it is a vernal pool there. And then if you have a vernal pool, you know, one of the most important things is to, to not disturb the actual vernal pool depression itself because again, there could be eggs like the fairy shrimp eggs are other insects that can actually live in the vernal pool when it's dry underneath the leaf litter. And then so we don't disturb the vernal pool basin. We call it the basin that the vernal pool is in. And then you try to make sure to maintain the forests around the vernal pool because some of those species, again, they, they only live in the vernal pool. They only go to the vernal pool for a couple of weeks when they're breeding. And then the rest of the year they're actually living in the forest around the vernal pool. So we, if you want to have those species, you need to protect the forest around the pool and then making sure you're maintaining good water quality so that the insects a lot of the insects and amphibians that are living in vernal pools are really sensitive to pollution. And so you want to make sure I try to limit the amount of pollution and keep the water quality really good in the, in the vernal pool. One of our participants has a forested vernal pool and they're excited to look for fairy shrimp this year, what is the purpose of fairy shrimp? So fairy shrimp provide, you know, it's a, it's an ecosystem and there it's the food web. And so they provide food for other animals that are in the vernal pool. And so I'm sure and they also filter, I mean, they also feed on algae and other things that are in other microorganisms or in the vernal pool then. So they are predator-prey kind of thing. And I just think they're really, really cool. So I just think they have intrinsic value to their just neat to watch and fascinating life history. I would love to be a fairy shrimp ecologist I would say. And because we know so little about fairy shrimp in Michigan, you know, you could really make a big difference in helping us better understand and even just find out how many species we have in Michigan where they're located. Just because we know so little about them. Okay, and the next question is, what, what are the predators of fairy shrimp? So I, you know, I, I mean, I don't know that we know exactly, but I would think any anything that can eat, little invertebrates in the vernal pool. So birds, frogs, the salamanders, I mean, I think, I would think that anything that's in there can. Some of the insects, some of the larger insects like dragon fly larvae that are in, that are in the vernal pools. Caddisfly, Actually caddisfly larvae. I'm pretty sure do eat fairy shrimp because we had a bucket that we were keeping or actually container that we're keeping caddisfly larvae and fairy shrimp in. because I was going to use it to show for like a class. And then we left them in there together. And then the next day when I went to look for to take out the container, the fairy shrimp are all gone (laughing). So I'm like, oh, I guess they eat fairy shrimp. Is it okay to go to a vernal pools and touch the animals in it? Yeah, that's a really good question. I mean, we try to limit, limit the amount of touching, especially when it comes to the amphibians. And like the egg masses and stuff. And you saw that and I showed a picture where people were holding the egg masses. And we try to limit that because you can have chemicals and things on your hand that could potentially harm the egg masses or amphibians then. So we usually use like a net to scoop, to scoop the, the invertebrates. And, or we would, we would wear gloves and we put the, put them into a container with water so that we're not actually holding them, minimizing the amount of actually holding them. But you can I mean, you know, I think it's not going to it's not going to harm them right off the bat. But if you just try to, if you try to reduce that threat than it would be good, Really minimize that as much as possible, that would be better probably. OK and you might be able to answer this question, two questions in one answer. So what does salamanders eat? And can the eggs that are in the vernal pools be eaten by other species? Yes. So the salamanders will eat the eggs of, of the other, other salamanders and frog, frog eggs that are in the vernal pool. They'll also can eat like the tadpoles or the larvae. Other salamander larvae are tadpoles that are in the vernal pool and then the other invertebrates, insect larvae that are in the vernal pools. And that's all of our questions for now. Okay. So I just wanted then talk a little bit about what we're doing then to try to address this need for more data and increase understanding and to try to contribute to greater or better protection of vernal pools then. And so we've been trying to map vernal pools and monitor them to get more information about where they're located and how many we have and where and how they're doing and try to better understand their ecology then. And so one of the things I've been doing is trying to map potential vernal pools using air photos. So we actually look at aerial imagery and look at especially spring aerial imagery from the spring when the, when, at leaf and deciduous forest, you know, the leaves aren't on the trees so that you can actually see what's on the ground then underneath, underneath the trees in the forest there. And so you can map areas where we see black, where those are, places where there might be water. And then we would read and then we would look at some of the imagery from the summer and see if we still see if there's water there or not. And so we map potential vernal pools that way. The other thing that we've been doing is trying to investigate on the use of radar and to, and LIDAR, which is just different wavelengths of light. And LIDAR is more laser. And, and just did again different wavelengths than to try to identify it. We can use some of that to help us map these potential vernal pools. And so the the LIDAR helps to figure out if you have a depression so where the water can actually sit on and, and pool on the landscape where you might have a little bit of a dip or depression on the landscape, even small little depressions then. And then the radar helps us determine if it can sense when there's water on the ground. So we use the radar imagery from the spring when, when the vernal pools are wet. And then we also use radar imagery from the summer when vernal pools, if they were vernal pools, would dry up. And if you have difference different signatures from that same area between the spring and summer, then we can use that, come up with a formula to calculate where we think there might be vernal pools then, and we've been working with Michigan Tech Research Institute on that. This is really useful because it may make it more efficient. Michigan's really big state. And so we might be able to cover a map potential vernal pools over a larger statewide or larger areas more efficiently. And also in areas like in those coniferous forest with evergreen trees where they don't drop their needles and we can't see on the ground to the forest floor from aerial imagery, the radar and lidar maybe able to help us map potential vernal pools then. And then we've also been testing using some modeling where we look at different environmental data layers in GIS and then try to figure out areas in the state that may have more potential for vernal pools than other areas. And then we go in the field and we try to verify, did the places that we'd map as potential vernal pools, are those in fact vernal pools? Or maybe they're not vernal pool but some other wetland type. In some cases we go out there and there's actually no water as not a wetland at all. So maybe it was like a shadow of a tree that we had mapped by mistake from the aerial imagery. So we have to go out there and then use that to try to verify. But at least if we map potential vernal pools ahead of time, that gives us a place to start so we don't have to try to do walk all over the state and try to find vernal pools then. We also collect information about the ecology and the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of vernal pools. So we can again better understand them like how big are vernal pools usually, you know, how deep are they? Are they usually what's the water temperatures? And then look at plants and animals where some of the plants are usually find a vernal pools. Are they usually forested or shrubby or marshy? And then what are some of the animals that you find, especially in some of those indicator species there. Because in other states that protect, they actually have some protection for vernal pools. They usually protect the vernal pools that have those indicator species in them. And then we also have developed a database so that we can actually start to keep track of where vernal pools are in the state and how many we have and how they're doing. And this way, when we have a project that is going to go proposed for a certain area, we can take a look and see if they're vernal pools there. And then we actually have a viewer on the vernal pool patrol website or the Michigan vernal pools partnership we will talk about little bit later where you can actually go and take a look and zoom in on the database where we have actually mapped potential vernal pools are where people have visited and verified them to be vernal pools. And you can click on a polygon or a point, and I'll give you some basic information about it. So that's going to help us keep better track of vernal pools and help guide conservation and management hopefully more efficiently and effectively in the future. And then we've also developed the Michigan Vernal Pool Patrol, which is a citizen science or a community science program to help us verify, map and monitor vernal pools because Michigan has a really big state and we don't have the resources right now to try to map and monitor vernal pools across the entire state. So we're looking for help. And so we have developed training workshops for people are interested in helping and a standard protocol for how we're going to be mapping and monitoring these vernal pools and what kind of data we're going to collect and how we're going to collect the data so that we're all collecting data the same, the same data, the same way. And then I'm all that information that volunteers help us collect as part of the program are all going to go into the statewide vernal pool database then. And so this program, we've designed it for adults but also for youth. And we've had school groups, usually middle school or high school classes. We've had 4-H clubs. Some of the pictures here on the lower left and the middle center, lower, the center picture there, or a 4-H club up in Newago County. And then so and then we also have families. We've had families that have volunteered and kids that have been volunteering, helping us monitor vernal pools with their parents or or if they're old enough on their own. And I just wanted to mention that, you know, you can you can monitor. You don't have to live in an area that is near a natural area or anything like that. I mean, we've worked with school groups and there are, you can find vernal pools just about anywhere, even in urban areas and Detroit or the Lansing area. So that's really nice thing about vernal pools I think is that you can really do it anywhere then. Anywhere there is vernal pool. And then we had lots of partners all across the state that had been working with us, are willing to help work and train volunteers and then help, help you provide support and help with the data collection. And so if you check again, on our website and the vernal patrol web site, which I'll just show it in a minute. And a partnership, and our vernal pool partnership website. You can get information about where we're offering these vernal pool patrol, local programs, and who you can contact about getting involved. And so we've got this vernal pool patrol, its ourarcGIS hub site. That's the address there (Vernal-Pool-Patrol-mnfi.hub.arcgis.com) and will also make that available, I think in the chat, and then send that out as well. So that if you want to learn more about it, if you want to get involved, you can get more information. And then we have we've built a Michigan vernal pools partnership, which is a public private partnership with lots of different partners have been working on vernal pool, mapping and monitoring and conservation. And so we've got a website and also a Facebook page. And so you're welcome to check that out and that's what we'll be posting information about vernal pools if you want to learn more about them or things that we're doing to try to help conserve them. And also, we offer trainings for the vernal pool patrol when they are and how you can sign up. Then how you can help, you can definitely get involved and help with vernal pool, mapping and monitoring conservation. So first thing is what you're doing today. You've learned about them, you know, so encourage you to learn more if you're interested and to share what you've learned and help promote the importance of vernal pools help other people become more aware about vernal pools and how important they are. And then if you're interested in helping to map and monitor vernal pools, you can join the vernal pool patrol. We've got some virtual training sessions coming up March 27th and April 3rd (2021), and we're working on some finalizing some other dates and as well, they'll be online and again, they'll be posted on the vernal Pool Patrol hub site and the partnership website. If you know of locations of vernal pools, you can provide the information and we can add that to the database even if you're not available or necessarily able to do the monitoring at this time, we still would love to get that information into the database. And then you can join the vernal pools partnership. Again if you want to get involved in other things of the partnership is doing. And then for rare species, I mentioned that MNFI we, our database includes observations. Again, we can't be everywhere. or looking for everything all over the state all the time. So we really rely on, you know, all of you and the general public. If you're out there and you find rare species like these, we're amphibians and reptiles that we talked about. If you are willing to report them to us and that be great and help us some add that information to the natural heritage database. So you can get information about how to report those sightings on the MNFI website. The DNR has on the DNR website and also the Michigan Herp Atlas for amphibians and reptiles species. And the Herp Atlas actually tracks common and rare species. And so you can report any amphibian and reptile that you see to the Herp Atlas. And that's all I have. So it's really if there's any questions, if you have time for questions, I'll be happy to entertain any additional questions. You just have one comment from one of our participants that says there's a vernal pool at the Chippewa Nature Center. Oh, okay. Know that. Oh, that awesome. Yeah. I think we would love to I think I think we'd love to get more and more do more work with nature centers. I think there's definitely opportunities there for, you know, for finding vernal pools and monitoring them. So that I think thats really cool. Thanks. Yeah, it looks like all the questions. We'll wait just a minute, (indistinguishable) if some one wants to put one in pretty quick, but there's lots and lots of links in the chat for you guys. So you guys, that was we can also those out to you. I've also seen a lot of references to just enjoying going out in and finding amphibians and reptiles around their house and things like that. So, Yu Man if you wanted to say anything about your favorite day that you've had, maybe over in Michigan or somewhere around this area? Well, there's so many favorite days. But the funny thing is, I think my most recent favorite day, which actually not with amphibians, or reptiles ironically or disappointingly. But a couple of years ago I was out doing surveys. I was looking for Eastern massasauga rattle snake in a kind of a prairie fen area. And I actually stumbled upon a new population of the federally endangered Mitchell Seder butterfly. It's one of the rarest butterflies in the world, I think. And definitely Michigan. And maybe in the world we only know of about 10 or 15 maybe remaining populations in the state. And it just one of those species, where you just don't expect to find new populations of. And so that's what I can think of. I wish it was a Herp story! (laughing) That's ok, its outside, right? Yeah. I know we're coming up on the top of the hour, so just to thank you again for joining us tonight and sharing information about vernal pools and how people can get involved. So with that, I'll just say, thanks so much for joining us. Don't forget, there are 4-H clubs in every county across the state. Clubs can explore wildlife and engage in conservation stewardship activities in your own neck of the woods. So contact your local Michigan State University Extension office to learn more about your4-H program to get involved. And we look forward to seeing you in April. (crickets chirping) (music)

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