Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Ecology (MS)

Administrative Home Department

College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science

Advisor 1

Rodney Chimner

Committee Member 1

Christopher Webster

Committee Member 2

Julia Burton


Vernal pools are small, ephemeral wetlands that become inundated each spring and provide many ecosystem services to the surrounding upland forests. They also provide critical habitat for amphibians and invertebrates, as their temporary nature keeps them free of fish and reduces predator populations. As part of a mapping project, we collected baseline field data on vernal pool characteristics throughout five Great Lakes National Parks: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Isle Royale National Park, and Voyagers National Parks. Our goals were to characterize and assess how vernal pools vary within and across the five national parks, and determine which characteristics are most correlated with the presence of vernal pool indicator species. We sampled 139 pools during spring of 2021 and 2022 where we collected data on pool characteristics related to hydrology, soils, vegetation, geomorphology, and indicator species. This baseline data shows that vernal pool characteristics do vary between the different parks. Many vernal pool qualities are driven by the type of substrate they occur on and overstory canopy species and amount of cover. The vegetation and canopy species present reflect the dominant vegetation of each park. We also created a classification system that describes which characteristics were most highly correlated to indicator species presence, resulting in a three-class system based on overstory species composition: Deciduous (>50% deciduous canopy), Coniferous (<50% deciduous canopy), and Open (<30% canopy cover). Indicator species were more likely to occur in pools with either a deciduous or open canopy than pools with a coniferous canopy. This information can be used to inform land managers within the Great Lakes of vernal pool characteristics they can expect, and which pools are hotspots for indicator species.