Size matters: The fate of vernal pools and their inhabitants

Date: January 13, 2015
Time: 7-8 PM
Location: Cohasset Center for Student Coastal Research

This is a free presentation seminar and discussion event hosted by the Center for Student Coastal Research (CSCR), a non profit organization located in Cohasset on Boston’s South Shore. The CSCR educates students in environmental sciences, encourages environmental awareness, and promotes activism.

General attendance and participation is complimentary, tax deductible donations are welcome.

The next guest speaker of the CSCR seminar and discussion series is Dr. Steven Schwartz, Aquatic Ecologist and Lecturer at Bridgewater State University. Steve will present and discuss "Size matters: The fate of vernal pools and their inhabitants".

Seminar Abstract:

Vernal pools are common features of the New England environment but our knowledge of function and relatedness across the landscape is weak. They are inadequately studied and unappreciated by the lay and scientific community due to the assumption that these extremely shallow habitats are biologically important only to amphibians and perhaps fairy shrimp. These assumptions are largely untested because of how we see these pools and even how we speak about them. During my presentation I will try to show the audience that these habitats are complex relative to the small size of most of their inhabitants. Size matters, and the large number of species living in these pools experience their world in a dramatically different way than we imagine. To all friends of vernal pools an important result of my research is that there is a lack of geographical pattern in the distribution of most vernal pool species. This result supports the hypothesis that many invertebrate inhabitants of vernal pools disperse poorly. The consequence to conservationists is that each vernal pool acts as an island for poorly dispersing species and preservation of the habitats is critical in a landscape that is increasingly fragmented.

Steve’s Biography:

I have always loved science and could never imagine doing anything else. I became interested in water at an early age and decided I would become a marine biologist although I grew up in St. Louis and never saw the ocean until I started to study at Long Beach State. From there I moved to Northern Arizona University to study a lake and then to the University of Nebraska to study the animals of vernal pools. From there I have held professional positions in Ontario, Georgia, Oklahoma and Massachusetts with a two year stay in Israel along the way. At each place I worked vernal pools were my interest and they still are. I learned to see the world from a different perspective at each stop and it is the sum of my experiences that helps me see vernal pools in a unique way. I’d like to think that I’ve become something of an expert on many of the invertebrates of vernal ponds. Due to vagaries of life I’ve been primarily teaching for the last few years, away from research, but would dearly love to resume that phase of my career or to become a stronger advocate for these wonderful habitats.