Photo by K. Redmond

Wisconsin Ephemeral Ponds Project

The purpose of this project is to train citizens to monitor the physical characteristics of ephemeral ponds. Volunteer data are used to help groundtruth new maps of ephemeral ponds and collect data that will lead to a better understanding of the location and ecology of these habitats.

Ephemeral ponds have standing water present only a portion of the year, drying up later in the summer. The drying phase excludes fish and their absence as a predator and competitor makes these ponds ideal breeding habitat for a variety of amphibians, macroinvertebrates, and other wildlife during spring and early summer. During the wet phase eggs are laid, hatch, and the young must complete development to emerge as air-breathing adults before the pond dries up.

Citizen monitoring started in 2008 in southeastern Wisconsin, with training sessions carried out by a Citizen Monitoring Network of more than 12 Partner organizations working with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and UW-Extension. In the first two years of monitoring adult volunteers in Sheboygan, Ozaukee, Washington, Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties have monitored 159 sites. They paid monthly visits to areas mapped as "potential ephemeral ponds" or PEPs, using a simple one-page field sheet to document water presence, size, depth and other physical characteristics. WDNR uses citizen data to help confirm whether a mapped PEP is an ephemeral pond.

Volunteers are needed for the upcoming monitoring season. Sites are monitored monthly, beginning in April until the ponds dry up. We are looking for a commitment to monitor at least 3 sites. An 8-hour training session, offered in early April is required. Volunteers sign up to work with one of the Partner organizations in the Network. Local partners include Concordia University, Friends of Cedarburg Bog, Mequon Nature Preserve, Milwaukee County Zoo, Milwaukee County Parks, Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, Pringle Nature Center, Riveredge Nature Center, Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, Sheboygan River Basin Partnership, UW-Parkside, Urban Ecology Center, and Wehr Nature Center.

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