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Image of life and features beneath the surface of a vernal pond (Photo by Steven David Johnson)

  • Friday, April 30, 2021
  • 3:30 PM–4:30 PM

GEO Seminar – Beneath Vernal Pools: Documenting Life in Temporary Ponds from the Perspective of a Conservation Photographer - Presented by Dr. Steven David Johnson, Conservation photographer and Professor of Visual and Communication Arts, Eastern Mennonite University in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. This seminar is co-sponsored by the Department of Geology, Geography and Environmental Studies and the Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens.

Summary: The vernal pools of Appalachia form from seasonal rains and snow melt. In late winter and early spring, the pools host breeding events for amphibians and macro-invertebrates.  As a conservation photographer, I’m drawn to the intricate dance of underwater life in Appalachian Mountain forests and nearby lowlands. Often overlooked because of their small size and nocturnal nature, vernal pool animals have complex lifecycles that involve an aquatic element. From the abstract patterns of spotted salamander egg masses to the golden filigree of a wood frog tadpole, there’s a tiny world of beauty and complexity that deserves notice and protection.

Documenting vernal pool life cycles is like a spiral. The same events happen every year in roughly the same order, but every year of observation adds complexity, depth and new discoveries about behavior. One year’s work might focus on hatching eggs while another year’s work might concentrate on metamorphosis. It’s a dramatic cycle that takes place on a minute scale.

In this talk, I’ll be sharing natural history images and video from a nearly decade long exploration of vernal pool environments and discussing the role direct observation plays in understanding natural history.

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