Pepa welcomed us all back to Craftsbury with a rigorous and comprehensive testing schedule. Yesterday we had a step test on the SkiErg, and today we had a 5k; later in the week we’ll have a 1k, and next weekend, a running test on the track. I can’t say that this schedule made me super enthusiastic about coming back from “vacation” but it has turned out to not be so bad (yet).
After my test this morning I went out in the woods to find a vernal pool. I attended a training session about a statewide vernal pool mapping program and was excited to see that one of the potential vernal pools found via infrared orthophotos was on the Outdoor Center’s land. So I took off with the GPS to try to find it (warning, the rest of this is going to be kind of nerdy).
Vernal pools fill up in the springtime, and all sorts of amphibians (like frogs and salamanders) migrate to them, mate, and lay there eggs there. The eggs incubate and hatch and then the tadpoles and larvae spend a few weeks in the pond before emerging. The pools are good habitat for these guys for a couple of reasons: they don’t have fish, so there’s less predation, and there’s a lot of yummy, nutrient-rich organic matter that has built up. By the time the heat of summer rolls around, the pools dry up.
Ironically, the large pool was right next to the intersection of Race Loop, Upper Bailey Hazen, and Biathlon. Even just since getting back to Craftsbury I have walked by this thing a whole bunch of times without noticing it. But there it was in all of its ephemeral glory:
I found some wood frog tadpoles and fairy shrimp in the pond which was pretty cool. But what I really want to talk about is something that isn’t specific to vernal pools. I found some totally awesome caddisflies! Caddisflies look a little bit like small moths when they are adults, but in their larval form they live in water and build awesome houses for themselves. They carry the houses on their backs. I’m not making this up. The houses (I would call them “cases” if I were more professional) are made out of small rocks, pieces of wood, vegetation, decomposing leaves, or whatever blends in with the bottom of the pond, and they make new houses as they grow and leave the old ones behind. I’ve seen plenty of caddisflies in my day but these ones had HUGE houses! There is evidence that some caddisfly species change their case-making techniques and materials based on perceived predator risk, so perhaps that has something to do with this, I’m not sure, or perhaps it has to do with the fact that all the other caddisflies I’ve seen came from streams with relatively fast-moving water. In any case, here’s an empty house that I fished out of the pool:
The houses are held together with something akin to the watery version of a spider’s silk. It turns out that people are researching using this silk as a “wet band-aid” to use instead of stitches during surgery. Pretty cool.
OK, nerd session over, and I’m getting ready for the boys to make fun of this whole blog post and making a joke about Home Alone.