U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Sacramento Fish & Wildlife OfficeServing the people, conserving the fish, wildlife, and plants of California

A Unit Of The Pacific Southwest Region

Photog Chronicles

June 3, 2019

photo of vernal pool tadpole shrimp eggs

The life history of the vernal pool tadpole shrimp is linked to the seasonal cycle of the vernal pool. This tadpole shrimp is carrying eggs. After they are laid, they can withstand long periods of drought before hatching. Photo credit: Andrea Korman, USFWS.

Everyone has heard the saying "a picture's worth a thousand words," but what a picture does not provide is the backstory—or details about the who, what, where, when and why. Photog Chronicles allows Sacramento Fish and Wildlife biologists to tell the story behind a wildlife photograph they captured in their own words.

Fish and Wildlife Biologist Andrea Korman is a valued member of SFWO’s Sacramento Valley Division. She is deeply passionate about field biology and conservation, and has put her skills to work both domestically and abroad.

Several colleagues from the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office and I were invited to conduct vernal pool surveys with an expert on Central Valley vernal pools, at Jepson Prairie Preserve in Solano County. This preserve, located in the southern portion of the Sacramento Valley, contains some of the rarest species in the valley including the vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi) and California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense).

photo of California tiger salamander

California tiger salamanders can be found in grasslands and low foothills with pools or ponds, which they need for breeding. Photo credit: Andrea Korman, USFWS.

Upon our arrival, we immediately noticed the vastness of the prairie interspersed with what appeared to be large puddles. These puddles were actually the vernal pools that had brought us to the Preserve. We received instruction on sampling techniques and species identification and were sent on our way. Equipped with waders, dipnets, and a sense of adventure, we waded out into the cloudy waters of the vernal pool with the hopes of glimpsing at some of the unique creatures we had only written about. After several failed attempts, we finally struck gold. We found vernal pool tadpole shrimp, Conservancy fairy shrimp (Branchinecta conservatio), midvalley fairy shrimp (Branchinecta mesovallensis), and even larval California tiger salamanders inhabiting the pools that were no deeper than the height of our knees. We were even fortunate enough to observe some of the shrimp carrying eggs. Smaller than a grain of rice, these remarkable eggs are capable of withstanding long periods of drought—some for even longer than 10 years—waiting until conditions are right to hatch.

By the end of the day, even the relentless prairie winds and leaky waders couldn’t keep the smiles off of our faces. We never would have imagined the treasures that could be found living within these vernal pools. The experience was unforgettable and also reminded us of how important our jobs are in helping to preserve these incredible species.

- Andrea Korman

Last updated: June 3, 2019