Cricket Frog from Vernal Pools

The Importance of the Vernal Pools of Delmarva Peninsula

Delaware Nature Society’s Jim White, Senior Fellow for Land & Biodiversity Management, was recently included in the making of the documentary movie Wetlands of Wonder: The Hidden World of Vernal Pools. Discover the importance of our vernal pools, how they were formed, and the frogs, salamandars, and other creatures that live in them. Then, learn about the research herpetologists are performing to help us learn more about these rare creatures.

“These Delmarva bays [the name for Delmarva Peninsula’s vernal pools] are very old.” Jim White shares (time mark 5:35). “In fact, most of them are in the range of 10,000 years old. They were formed back when this area was very different. It was the end of the last ice age, and this area was very cold and relatively open habitat. We believe these bays were formed during that time period – when water would fill in depressions and wind would actually blow the sand in the pond in a circular fashion and scour out the ___ of these bays.

“Another unique thing about the DelMarva Bays is they’re not filled by rainwater. There are no inlets or outlets of these ponds. They’re just a bowl, basically. How they fill, is the groundwater rises. The groundwater rises up into the ponds and forms over a clay lens.

“These ponds are incredibly biologically diverse. Particularly diverse in amphibians. Some of our rare species occur only in these Delmarva Bays. Species like the Eastern Tiger Salamander, the Barking Tree Frog. There are species that you don’t find anywhere else except in this type of wetland.”

Dive in deeper as Jim White and other herpetologists take us out into these vernal pools each season.

In winter, Jim White goes into ice crusted winter vernal pool to search for life – he quickly finds a Green Frog tadpole (time mark 10:20). In spring, he voyages back into the pool where he finds a male Southern Leopard Frog (time mark 18:35) and, later in the season, many more frog species (time mark 25:15). In the summer, the water level lowers, helping the researchers to study endangered Spotted Turtles. Come late August, Jim White returns to the same vernal pool to show how the water level has dropped, leaving only dry solid land – the reason these pools don’t contain fish (time mark 31:30). He introduces the many insects and plants that depend on the drying out of these vernal pools. He shares a number of interesting facts about these unique frogs. More rare, uniquely adapted plants and animals are shared by the other herpetologists, biologists, and botanists as well.

Dive into the 5-year University of Delaware study endeavoring to understand the effects of climate change on vernal pools.

Non-scientists are interested in the vernal pools too and share why they enjoy and have helped rehabilitate vernal pools.

Unfortunately, Delaware has lost fully half of these rare habitats to date… [Delaware’s 50 year old act that protects clean water resources] never considered these small isolated wetlands…they remain unregulated by the federal government and the state.

Are you, or do you know of, a student who loves vernal pools and other freshwater wetlands? Join our Freshwater Wetlands Art and Essay Contests.

Wetlands of Wonder: The Hidden World of Vernal Pools by Michael Oates with funding by Environmental Protection Agency, Wetland Program Development Grant, Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, EPA Chesapeake Bay Implementation Grant, Federal Coastal Management Act grant administered by the Office for Coastal Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve.