The Brief Wondrous Life of Vernal Pools



Yes, folks, spring is technically here. But as temperatures warm, what happens to all that snow melt and spring rain?  In this hour of All Sides, we’ll explore the hidden world of vernal pools–the endangered, ephemeral bodies of water that form every spring to host hundreds of creatures, and then disappear.


  • David Celebrezze, Director of Air & Water Special Projects for the Ohio Environmental Council
  • Mick Micacchion, wetland ecologist with the Midwest Biodiversity Institute
  • Mark Dilley, founder of wetland consulting firm, Mad Scientist Associates

Join The Conversation

  • Emily

    How do you know vernal pools are even there if you’re not exploring the land year round? Can an expert eye find evidence in soil or plant life or is there a registry somewhere? They seem so special, especially with amphibians in decline around the world; how can developers avoid destroying them if build sites are surveyed in a dry season?

    • Josh

      Plants, landscape, a little digging with a shovel…yes, you can definitely tell if an area would be wet in the spring. There are also aerial photos on most auditor websites. These aerials are usually taken in late winter/early spring, a time when vernal pools will have water. To prepare for my spring vernal pool trips, I use aerial photos to locate these wonderful wetlands.

    • Mark Dilley

      Josh is correct. With some training and experience, you can identify these areas at any time of the year. But it never hurts to inspect a site over a year or two to directly observe changes in the site’s hydrology (depth and duration of flooding).

  • chris

    Hello I was listening to NPR about vernal pools really just by accident.
    I have always been fascinated with amphibians since my youth growing
    up in Illinois. I went to state parks with my dad who also loves
    amphibians. I have never observed a salamander in the wild well 34 years
    later I have finally seen one a Jefferson Salamander. I also was extra
    careful not to disturb its habitat too much and to not handle with out
    wet hands I know amphibians to my knowledge have a protective slime so
    little handling the better which I followed but have a few great
    photos. I found under a log on the outskirts of a vernal pool under a
    tree on Whipple Rd. at Delaware State Park 04/07/13. I just wanted to
    let you know. any other advice on how to observe salamanders. Thanks

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