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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Environmental Conservation

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Vernal pools are small, ephemeral wetlands lacking an inlet or outlet. These wetlands, also known as seasonal pools, are found in a wide range of biomes, and their characteristics vary based on location. While the vegetation of western U.S. pools, and amphibians of eastern U.S. pools have been extensively studied, many aspects of vernal pools have not been fully characterized. In particular, although the general seasonal wetting and drying cycle is understood qualitatively, few studies have attempted to quantify the hydrological regime of vernal pools in New England. As water level variation drives many, if not all, of the characteristics unique to these systems, more research on this aspect of vernal pool functioning is needed. The primary objective of this study was to gain a better understanding of vernal pool hydrology through the study of a complex of three pools in South Deerfield, MA. The water level in the South Deerfield pools has been monitored since 2009. For this study, the most recently recorded water year (1 October 2017 to 30 September 2018) was used to characterize the water level fluctuations in the Middle Pool. Water level was monitored manually (weekly intervals) and with pressure transducers (4-hour intervals) in permanently installed wells. The effects of precipitation and evapotranspiration on water level were quantified with a water balance analysis. This analysis also estimated changes in storage by estimated inflow from the uplands and outflow via deep seepage. Water level changes in the Middle Pool were consistent with qualitative descriptions and trends described in earlier studies in the region. We found that the countervailing effects of precipitation and evapotranspiration were the primary drivers of water level fluctuations throughout the year. However, the estimate of storage derived as a water balance residual was not representative of water level in the vernal pools. The storage estimate derived for the Middle Pool was more successful at estimating the water level during spring transition, the high water period most important to amphibian breeding.


First Advisor

Paul Barten