Vernal Pool Monitoring (DCR)

Virginia’s DCR website defines a vernal pool as “a seasonal, ‘ephemeral’ or temporary type of wetland habitat that’s formed by the accumulation of winter rains and snowfall, typically in shallow depressions in woodlands.”  These pools are breeding sites for many amphibians, including several obligate species — those that cannot breed elsewhere.  They are important wetlands threatened by forest loss, development, and introduced predators.


The goals of our project are to map vernal pools in our chapter’s area, and to monitor each pool regularly — particularly noting obligate species. Data are reported to CitSci, a global initiative that supports citizen science, and shared with the land managers to educate and encourage conservation.

Activities and Outcomes

The Vernal Pool Project involves activities and produces outcomes in three categories:

Education:  Volunteers are trained online and on location at pools.  They train other volunteers from the chapter, and our members have even trained six volunteers from the Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes chapter. Volunteers educate landowners and managers about the importance of conserving the pools, and also present educational programs to groups.

Citizen Science  In two years our project has grown from 6 volunteers to 18 and from 39 hours to 635!  This year volunteers monitored 28 pools with 18 of these pools being “new” this year and probably previously unknown.  Valuable data are shared with CitSci.

Stewardship Locating vernal pools and recording, mapping, and monitoring them raises awareness among landowners and managers, helping to save these endangered wetlands and the species that rely on them.

Roles and Contributions of VMN Volunteers

Members Mary D. and Jeff H. give leadership to this activity and train our volunteers.

Eight-teen chapter volunteers have hiked the mountains looking for undiscovered pools in 2023.  Each volunteer monitors one or two pools and reports that data to CitSci.  Volunteers monitor for six months. However, the busiest time is January to April, so they often deal with cold wet weather.

Significant partners

Our ponds are located on private land and in Roanoke County’s Explore Park, Roanoke City’s Mill Mountain Park, the Washington and Jefferson National Forests, and along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We have pools in Craig, Botetourt and Roanoke counties on public and private lands in addition to the above mentioned locations.

Public Outreach and Education: Explore Park Women’s Walk

Upon request by Explore Park, our chapter began collaborating with the park to host a monthly walk for women on one of the park trails.  The park had several women who had mentioned that they would really like to hike the trails at the park but were concerned about hiking alone.  The walk is advertised by the Roanoke County Parks and is held the second Saturday of the month at 9 AM.

The ladies gather at the Visitor’s Center and then go on a master naturalist led hike on one of the park’s many trails.  There are normally at least two volunteers present to lead and assist with the hike.

The Master Naturalists point out things of interest along the hike depending on what they find on a particular day.  Examples of things seen on the walks include birds of various species, a hornet’s nest, salamander, mushrooms, racoon tracks, trees, invasive plants, and wildflowers.

Impacts of the activity are:

  1. The VMN Monthly Women’s Hike empowers women to engage with the outdoors and creates an opportunity to build community and connection. Women new to the area have attended and developed quick connections that made them feel more welcomed and supported.
  2. Building relationships with like-minded women. Through these relationships and networking potentially developing more opportunities for collaborations and partnerships for RVMN.
  3. Community awareness of our natural resources and the importance of understanding and protecting them. Participants and leaders share their knowledge of the natural world during the hike and learn from each other.
  4. Building relationship with Roanoke County/ City Recreation.
  5. Providing a safe and educational environment to hike and explore the great outdoors.  Many attendees aren’t comfortable hiking solo, so this group hike allows them to be in nature, learn about the local ecosystems, exercise, and socialize – all things well known to improve people’s health and sense of wellbeing.
  6. Awareness of RVMN and recruitment opportunities for more RVMN volunteers.

As an anecdotal story, one of the participants provided the following after the April, 2023 hike:

“Yesterday I had the great privilege of being on the Explore Park walk with Nancy B.  She is an extraordinary naturalist and leader. She was generous with her knowledge. She was caring. The kind of walk she orchestrated for its older participants was suitable and relaxed. She was knowledgeable, and accessible. She was interested in the participants and took time to ask about their interests and lives and physical abilities as she adjusted the walk to suit the needs of the group.

As an avid birdwatcher, she had her binoculars with her and helped us see birds. She mimicked and identified their calls for us. She shared the apps Merlin, Audubon, and Seek. She showed us how to download these free apps, and how each one worked.  As an older person, that technology and her explanation of it was very helpful to me.

In addition, she understood and explained the woodland: identifying wildflowers and also pointing out invasive species.

She was well acquainted with the various trails and shared the map with us explaining different routes and what we might see as well as what to expect of the terrain.

She is something else. She is the kind of naturalist and educator that all of us wish to be when we meet the public. She was enthusiastic, empathetic, excited and just a rare companion for this women’s walk. Congratulations to the Roanoke Chapter for having her as one of your members.”


Other Activities

Citizen Science:

Bluebird Trail monitoring

Project Feeder Watch (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

eBird Program (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Turkey and Grouse Survey (DWR)

Public Outreach and Education:

Living with Black Bears (DWR)

Providing public education and children’s activities at events like GO Fest, Roanoke’s Earth Day, Salem Farmers Market, Mill Mountain Zoo special days, and other local events on native plants, pollinators, wildlife habitat and invasive plants.

Leading a Nature Walk


Garst Mill Park Native Pollinator Garden

Bottom Creek Gorge

Invasive Plant Removal

McAfee Knob Task Force Ridgerunner

Natural Area Preserve and Public Park Maintenance and Cleanups

Trail Maintenance on the Appalachian Trail