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Maine Vernal Pools

This web site was designed to provide information on vernal pools for the people of Maine.

You will find a variety of resources on vernal pool ecology, the animals that breed in and use vernal pools, an explanation of state and federal regulations pertaining to vernal pools, and materials developed to assist you with field assessments and local mapping projects.

Featured Scientist - Kevin J. Ryan

The goal of my research is to understand the movement patterns and habits of two of the Northeast’s rarest vernal pool-breeding amphibians, Eastern Spadefoot Toads (Scaphiopus holbrookii) and Blue-Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma laterale). Eastern Spadefoots are desert amphibians that found their way to the wetter climates of the Northeast. Not much is known about them because they are so rare and hard to find. They don’t breed every year, as do all other amphibians in the Northeast, and they spend most of their time in underground burrows, emerging occasionally at night to feed on insects. Not much is known about under what weather conditions Eastern Spadefoots emerge from their burrows or even what their preferred habitat is. While more is known about Blue-Spotted Salamanders, there are still many questions. Most “Blue-Spotted Salamanders” in New England are actually a mix of Blue-Spotted Salamanders and Jefferson Salamanders. Pure Blue-Spotted Salamanders are only found in three locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. To understand both spadefoots and blue-spots better, I studied habitat use and how the animals move through their habitat using extensive pitfall trap arrays, which separate the different cover types present at my research sites.  I also looked at fine-scale movements of individuals using radio telemetry, and used a new method of locating microchip-implanted individuals with a backpack scanner with an antenna similar to that of a metal detector. Finally, I monitored Spadefoot Toad burrow emergence by using stationary microchip readers.  Ultimately, my findings will help determine the best ways to allow development to occur without compromising the habitats used by these and other vernal pool amphibians.

*For questions regarding my research, I can be reached at

Publications resulting from the above research

Ryan, K. J., and A. J. K. Calhoun. In Press. Post-breeding Habitat Use of the Rare Pure-Diploid Blue-spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale). Journal of Herpetology.

Ryan, K. J., A. J. K. Calhoun, and J. D. Zydlewski. In Press. Using Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) Systems for Terrestrial Detection of Blue-Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma laterale) in situ.Herpetological Conservation and Biology.

Ryan, K. J., A. J. K. Calhoun, J. D. Zydlewski, and B. C. Timm. In Review. Monitoring Eastern Spadefoot (Scaphiopus holbrookii) response to weather using a passive integrated transponder (PIT) system. Journal of Herpetology.

Ryan, K. J., D. P. Quinn, A. J. K. Calhoun In prep. Movement Patterns and Terrestrial Habitat Use of Eastern Spadefoot (Scaphiopus holbrookii) at the Northern Limit of Their Range.

Kevin just finished his Ph.D. in the Wildlife Ecology Department at the University of Maine this May.  He also works for FB Environmental, a small environmental consulting firm with offices in Portland, Maine and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Prior to his current appointments Kevin worked as a field herpetologist/office manager for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Metropolitan Conservation Alliance. At FB Environmental Kevin conducts wetland delineations, vernal pool assessments, herpetological surveys, and assists with water quality sampling and data sonde maintenance and deployment. Using CommunityViz software, Kevin conducts build-out analyses for municipalities and watershed groups to evaluate land use regulations, compare alternative development scenarios, and assess potential environmental impacts from future development. He also assists with conservation planning, technical report writing, and GIS analysis and mapping.


blue-spotted salamander eggs vp in winter