WEPP Frequently Asked Questions

(download printable 420 KB pdf version of FAQs)

  1. What are ephemeral ponds?
    Ephemeral ponds are isolated depressional wetlands that hold water during the spring and dry up in most years, usually by late summer or early fall.  Ephemeral ponds generally lack inlets or outlets.  Since ephemeral ponds dry and usually don’t support fish, they provide a unique and vital breeding habitat for amphibians and invertebrates.

  2. What is the WI Ephemeral Ponds Project? The Wisconsin Ephemeral Ponds Project (WEPP) was initiated in 2006 when the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) began mapping ephemeral ponds through air photo interpretation, and collecting physical and biological data on ephemeral ponds in southeastern Wisconsin. The project has two main goals:
    * to improve techniques to map small ephemeral ponds that are often missed on wetland inventory maps, and
    * to characterize their physical and hydrological variety, and their ecological significance.

  3. What is WEPP’s Citizen Monitoring Network?
    UW Extension established a network of partner organizations in southeast Wisconsin, such as conservation groups, nature centers and educators, to assist in meeting WEPP’s goals. In 2010, Riveredge Nature Center became the regional network coordinator. Each Partner provides training and support for volunteer citizen monitors who are interested in exploring ephemeral ponds and documenting their characteristics. The Network enables citizen monitors from different areas to share information and learn from each other. We hope the Network will also improve public awareness to build a stewardship ethic for protecting these fragile areas in southeastern Wisconsin and, over time, across the state.

  4. What is the role of citizen monitors in WEPP?
    Most ephemeral ponds are small features, and it’s difficult to tell from an aerial photo how long a pond holds water. To insure maps are accurate, features that look like an ephemeral pond need to be verified on the ground. Citizen monitors help with this ‘groundtruthing’ effort by visiting potential ephemeral pond locations to confirm the presence of a pond, and to observe and record its physical and biological features.
  5. Who can participate as a citizen monitor?
    Adults, over the age of 18, willing to inventory potential ephemeral pond locations of their choice, in southeastern Wisconsin who have the following qualifications:
    * No science background needed (although it’s helpful)
    * Ability to enter water to access a monitoring site
    *Desire to work with a partner and/or group
    *Tolerance of moderately inclement conditions
    *Willingness to respectfully represent the state/partner while participating

  6. Are children welcome?
    This program is still in an early stage and our training materials are currently directed to adults. We hope in the future to work with educators to develop appropriate curricula for students under age 18.

  7. What are expectations of citizens who participate in WEPP as monitors?
    *Attend one day-long training session to become familiar with the program, equipment, data forms  and procedures
    *Collect data (in teams of 2 or more) between April and October to groundtruth mapped potential ephemeral ponds and observe and record  physical characteristics
    *Visit each site you select at least twice to document both the presence of water and that the pond dries up. We recommend monthly visits while ponded water is present and at least once after the pond dries up.
    *Report results to your Partner organization
    *Take care of the equipment & return it in good condition

  8. When and where are the citizen monitor trainings?

    Trainings are generally offered one day in early April at one of the Partner organizations.

  9. Can I monitor if I can’t make the training?
    You need training before you can monitor on your own. Without training you may join a current team who have been trained and assist them in the field. 

  10. How will we report the data we collect?

    Completed data sheets should be returned to your Partner at the end of the monitoring season. These data are entered into a centralized database.

  11. How will the data we collect be used?
    The data allow DNR to evaluate and improve mapping techniques and will be added to an inventory of ephemeral ponds in southeastern Wisconsin. As the inventory grows, and as citizen monitors expand their plant, amphibian, insect and bird identification skills, we will expand to collecting more biological data.

  12. When do I begin monitoring?

    The timing of monitoring visits depends on the weather and the pond, but is generally from early April through July or August. Seeing the sites in April - when they are likely to have the most water, and before the leaves come out – makes some important observations easier. It is important to continue your monitoring visits until the pond dries up, both to document drying and since a dry pond makes other observations easier.

  13. What equipment do I need to own or buy in order to monitor?

    The most basic need for at least one member of each team is chest waders or hip boots, depending on the depth of the ponds. You will also need a water thermometer and a tool to measure water depth (folding rule, tape measure or yardstick will all work). Some Network Partners (the Nature Center or organization who is your local sponsor) have boots available to loan. If you don't have boots, you can still monitor by observing and recording the presence or absence of water at pond locations. Other equipment you will need to monitor the ponds will be provided to you.

  14. How can I get updates about the project?

    The best way to learn about updates to the project will be through your Partner and through this UW-Extension Citizen Monitoring website. At the end of the field season we gather at a citizen celebration to share experiences and results.

  15. Do I need to take photos?
    Taking photos is not required, but can be of valuable for:
    *Verifying the identification of something you find or want to know more about.
    *Documenting how a pond changes through the seasons in the extent of water, shade and vegetation.
    *Taking photos of you in action . . . The fall gathering is a great place to share these!
    *Sharing the beauty and intrigue of ephemeral ponds! Document those things that make your pond special and important.
    *Documenting problems – we may all run across a pond that has seen better days.  Pictures can help make progress towards making a better future for ephemeral ponds.
    *Winning the photo contest at our year-end gathering
    *Digital photos can be submitted with your data.

  16. Can I take digital photos using a cell phone?
    Yes – but be aware of photo quality and make sure your photos record the details you want to see. 


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