This summer, HWS and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (EFS) are collaborating on a project to map vernal or woodland pools, which are temporary pools of water that provide habitat for distinctive plants and animals. Led by Associate Professor of Biology Bradley Cosentino, the New York State Vernal Pool Mapper project is conducted in association with the New York Herp Atlas, a program of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the SUNY-ESF Roosevelt Wild Life Station and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History.
The Vernal Pool Mapping Project engages the public to help identify where significant vernal pools exist in New York State. These typically small, shallow bodies of water in woodlands are filled each spring by rain and snow melt, then dry up for a period of time during the summer. Unlike a pond or a lake, they have no permanent inlet or outlet, but serve as essential breeding habitat for certain species of wildlife, including salamanders and frogs.
“Because of their ephemeral nature, vernal ponds are critical habitat for wildlife that cannot co-occur with fish, including mole salamanders, wood frogs and fairy shrimp,” says Cosentino, who serves as project director. “The small size of vernal pools makes them difficult to identify with remote sensing techniques, so “on-the-ground” identification is critical for mapping and potentially protecting this important habitat.”
The public is encouraged to visit the Vernal Pool Mapping website to enter the coordinates of a vernal pool manually or click on a location on the map. The information entered is used by Cosentino and his colleagues to examine effects of climate, pollution and land use on aquatic wildlife in New York State.
A member of the faculty at HWS since 2012, Cosentino’s research explores the ecological and evolutionary responses of wildlife to environmental change. He has a particular interest in understanding how human land use affects animal movements. Cosentino has published more than two dozen research articles in journals including Conservation Biology, Biological Conservation, Molecular Ecology, and Animal Behavior, and he has been awarded grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Cosentino holds a B.A. from Augustana College and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.