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Study of Fauna of Spring Temporary Water Bodies

© Alexsander S. Bogolyubov, Russia, 2002

© Michael J. Brody, USA, 2003

Study of fauna of temporary water bodiesThis manualdescribes the procedure for studying vernal pools in spring. Students analyze the species composition of animals found in temporary water bodies at different distances away from a constant water reservoir. A general plan for the organization of studies is given, as well as a technique for sampling (catching animals), processing, and representation of data.

This field study has instructional video featuring real students conducting the ecological field techniques in nature. Each video illustrates the primary instructional outcomes and the major steps in accomplishing the task including reporting the results.


In the course of the research, the objects under study are so-called temporary water bodies, i.e. water reservoirs that fill up with water for a short time and that dry out quickly. The lifetime of temporary water bodies is different: from several days up to several months. Temporary water bodies also differ in their origin.

Temporary water bodies found in the temperate climatic zone are usually formed in spring – during a period of snowmelt and spring river floods (spring tide). In the central part of Russia, this period usually takes place at the end of April to the beginning of May. Temporary water bodies can also appear in other seasons, for instance, after heavy rainfalls in summer and following river floods (freshets). However, due to the regulated streams of most plain rivers (the presence of dams and water-storage reservoirs), summer floods and, correspondingly, temporary water bodies have become quite rare.

Temporary water bodies are quite common in other climatic zones of the earth as well, and not only in spring. They are formed in the well-known rainy season in Africa, Asia, and South America: at low latitudes, where monsoons and trade winds dominate.

Many animals have adapted to life in temporary water bodies, both invertebrates and vertebrates. Among vertebrates they are, first of all, amphibians. They are active when water is available, but when the water body dries up they migrate to the nearest constant water reservoirs (in the example of frogs) or they fall into anabiosis until the next time the temporary water body is filled (for example, tritons).

However, invertebrate animals constitute the largest part of the animal community in temporary water bodies. They will be objects of the given research as well. Most invertebrates that find habitat in temporary water bodies are arthropods (mainly, crustaceans and insects) and mollusks. Some of them migrate upon sensing unfavorable conditions for their existence (flying insects), others survive drought by burying into silt (crustaceans and mollusks).

This research will help us to find out what animals inhabit temporary water bodies, what adaptations animals have for survival under unfavorable conditions, and how do these adaptations realize.

The following equipment, which is standard for hydrobiological studies, is required for these studies: scrapers, sieves, nets, i.e. devices designed for catching invertebrates, white dishes (basins) to sort out caught animals under field conditions, cans with covers to transport samples, field diaries, field guides and binoculars.

General plan of the organization of studies

This research is aimed at study of animal populations of different types in temporary water-bodies of your area. Hence, the objectives of the study are: 1.) The search for temporary water bodies that can be found in this season in the vicinity of the school or field studies center; 2.) Classification of available temporary water bodies according to their origin type (feeding) and distance from the main constant body of water; 3.) Sampling (i.e. catching) of invertebrate animals in each type of the found temporary water bodies; 4) Determination of caught animals; 5) Compiling lists of animal species according to types of temporary water bodies; 6) Analysis of the dependence of animal species composition on the type of temporary water body.

Choice of objects under study

Temporary water bodies serve as the objects under study in the course of this research. As it has been said in the introduction, they are water bodies that exist for a short period of time and are formed as a result of snow melting or a river flood. Accordingly, the most typical existing temporary water bodies under conditions existing in the central part of Russia can be divided into two or three groups.

First, there are puddles (ponds and lakelets), which are formed within the river or stream floodplain or close to a lake or pond, due to spring flood of the main water body. Size and depth of such water bodies are of no principal importance for conducting the studies; the most important thing is...


This was only the first page from the manual and its full version you can see in the

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set:

It is possible to purchase the complete set of 40 seasonal Ecological Field Study Materials (video in mpg + manuals in pdf formats) in an attractive 4 compact disk set. These compact disks are compatible with Mac and PC computers. The teacher background information and manuals can be printed out for easy reference. The videos are suitable for individual student or whole class instruction. To purchase the complete 4CD set write a request to the authors (in a free form).

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set

Some of these manuals you can also purchase in the form of applications for Android devices on Google Play.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk:

We also have a free and interesting demonstration disk that explains our ecological field studies approach. The demo disk has short excerpts from all the seasonal field study videos as well as sample text from all the teacher manuals. The disk has an entertaining automatic walk through which describes the field study approach and explains how field studies meet education standards.

You can also download the Demo Disc from This is a virtual hybrid (for PC and Mac computers) CD-ROM image (one 563 Mb file "CD_Demo.iso"). You can write this image to the CD and use it in your computer in ordinary way. You also can use emulator software of virtual CD-ROM drive to play the disk directly from your hard disk.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk


Other Ecological Field Studies Instructive Manuals:

Autumn Season

  1. Orienteering in the Forest
  2. Procedure of the Geological Exposure Description
  3. Plotting a Profile of a River Valley Slope
  4. Simple Procedure of Soil Description
  5. Assessment of the Vital State of a Forest Based on Pine-tree Analysis
  6. Study of Species Composition and Number of Fungi
  7. Study of Species Composition and Census of Birds Using the Line Transect-counting Method
  8. Integrated Study Based on Landscape Profile
  9. Complex Environmental Assessment of Human Impact on an Area
  10. Assessment of Air Pollution by Lichen Indication Method

Winter Season

  1. Making a Campfire
  2. Simple “Eye” Survey of the Field Study Site
  3. Study of Growth Dynamics of Trees Based on Annual Rings
  4. Mapping Forest Vegetation
  5. Green Plants Under Snow
  6. Methods of Observation of a Chickadee Flock's Territorial Behavior
  7. Procedure of Winter Mammals Route Census by Footprints
  8. Study of Mammal Ecology According to Their Tracks
  9. Physical and Chemical Properties of Natural Waters
  10. Study of Snow Cover Profile

Spring Season

  1. Let's Help Birds!
  2. Study of the Ecology of Early Flowering Plants
  3. Phenology of Plant Florescence
  4. Assessment of the Vital State of Coniferous Underbrush
  5. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part I: Forest Litter, Wood)
  6. Studies of Species Composition and Abundance of Amphibians
  7. Studying Minerals and Rocks in Your Area
  8. Studies of the Day Activity of Singing Birds
  9. Studies of Bird Populations Size by Different Methods
  10. Study of Fauna of Spring Temporary Water Bodies

Summer Season

  1. Making a Herbarium
  2. The Study of Plants in Your Local Environment
  3. Study of the Vertical Structure of a Forest
  4. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part 2: Grass Layer, Tree Crowns and Air)
  5. Study of Birds’ Nesting Life
  6. Complex Comparative Description of Small Rivers and Streams
  7. The Study of Water Invertebrates in a Local River and Assessment of Its Environmental State
  8. Study of Plankton
  9. Assessment of Ecological Features of Meadows on the Base of Vegetation Cover
  10. Assessment of Environmental State of the Forest Based on Leaves’ Asymmetry

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