All posts by Kim Matthews

Ephemeral Ponds: Important Habitat for reptiles and amphibians

By Alvin Braswell, written for use by the volunteers at Reptile and Amphibians day at the Natural Science Museum

We haveAmbystoma maculatum, Wake Co, ALB12375 a Spotted Salamander and egg masses, an Eastern Mud Turtle, and an American Toad or Spring Peepers as examples of species that breed in or otherwise use ephemeral ponds.


Definition:  Ephemeral ponds are aquatic sites that do not hold water all year – during normal rainfall years.  They can range in size from small puddles to over a hundred acres.  Ephemeral ponds have been a part of the landscape of North Carolina for many thousands of years, and whole communities of plants and animals have evolved to depend on them.  The drying out phase is critical to the productivity of these ponds.

A goal of the research and management communities is to document the occurrence of ephemeral wetlands and the species that depend on them so the natural heritage of North Carolina can be conserved through responsible resource management, the public can learn about and enjoy these resources, public health will be enhanced through a healthy environment, and the species involved will be assured continued existence with healthy populations. To that end it is desirable to discover the identity, document the range, and record the biology of every species of amphibian and reptile associated with ephemeral wetland communities in North Carolina.

IPseudemys rubriventris, Columbia FWS boardwalk, ALB 2015-45nitial studies of ephemeral pond breeding amphibians were started because they were understudied and because it was exciting to find so many amphibians in one place during a breeding episode.  Frog choruses could be deafening and dozens of salamanders, either difficult or impossible to find otherwise, could be present.

In the 1970’s, interest in rare species became a focal point at the state and national level.  Ephemeral pond communities clearly were much reduced due to a variety of human activities, and the need to document what was left was clear.

Examples of losses include:  Clay-based Carolina Bays (in a natural functional state) have been reduced by about 95%; sinkhole ponds in coastal counties have been filled, trashed, drained, abused by off-road vehicles, and altered in a variety of other ways; virtually all upland ephemeral ponds in the Piedmont have been drained; and floodplain pools suffer from exaggerated flooding due to hard surface runoff.  The list of what has happened and is still happening to these habitats and the species they support goes on and on.  However, loss of ephemeral ponds to the plant and animal species that depend on them probably is not due to animosity toward frogs or salamanders, or other plant and animal species (with the exception of the mosquito).  Many losses have occurred through ditching to make fertile soils available for agriculture or silvaculture.

InforBufo fowleri, calling, Wake Co, ALB11857mation gathered from various agencies’ and institutions’ studies has contributed to a much better understanding of the status of ephemeral pond breeding species and the communities they are a part of.  Permanent documentation of populations is done with voucher specimens, scientific publications, and archived files.  Determining the identity of species and genetic variation throughout their ranges is an ongoing process that requires coordinated efforts with researchers at other institutions.  The natural history information gathered is not only used to advance science, but also to promote conservation through better informed environmental management and a wide variety of educational programs.

Research projects can be strictly carried out by professional scientists; however, a growing number of are geared to involve the public through “Citizen Science” initiatives.  Frog call surveys are just one example.

State of the Carolina Wetlands Association, March 2016


As most of you know the Carolina Wetlands Association (CarWA) was born in June 2015 when we were incorporated and elected our first members of the Board of Directors.  In almost 9 months, we have made amazing progress to accomplishing many of our initial objectives.  So I felt it was time to reflect on our accomplishments and what remains to be done and the direction of our organization.

CarWA was formed because the legislative agenda in North and South Carolina changed and adopted a position of decreasing regulation.  This resulted in relaxing or eliminating much of the policies and rules that had been established to compliment the Clean Water Act and tailored to meet the needs of the citizens of the Carolinas.  With this reduction in wetland protection, one of the primary wetland values, that of clean water for the citizens of the Carolinas, was in danger and the need for the Carolina Wetlands Association was evident.

In order to put the structure in place to carry out the mission of CarWA, several committees were formed:

  • The Program Committee was formed to create outreach materials, beginning with the general public in mind.
  • The Science Committee consists of the best minds in wetland science and will keep abreast of wetland research, research needs, and data to support other committees and other organizations, as well as wetland landowners.
  • The Development Committee has been active in creating a social communication structure with our webpage, facebook, newsletter, and soon to be other media.
  • The Regional Coordinators Committee is focused on increasing activity in the many regions in the Carolinas so that we can know the local issues concerning wetlands, who the local landowners and communities are, and who wants advice and support in managing their wetland resources.
  • The Finance Committee is just getting started, but has the core members in place to carry out the objectives of managing the finances, starting a budget, planning for expenses, and eventually making recommendation to the Board about spending priorities.
  • The Policy Committee is also just starting out but has had several important meetings to solidify its mission.

Overseeing the Carolina Wetlands Association is a strong and talented Board of Directors.  The structure and foundation of CarWA is sound and in good hands and the leadership is in place to evolve the organization into a sustainable and vibrant future.

One of CarWA’s most important objectives is to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization as recognized by the IRS.  The application process for 501(c)(3) is long and difficult, but the application process is nearing the final stage.  We must make sure it is done right the first time so that it will have the best chance of getting our application processed by the IRS quickly.

Another objective is to establish plans to guide our future.  The Development Committee created the beginnings of a Marketing Plan, which has guided much of our social media work.  In particular, the marketing plan has led to the “Donation Campaign” to raise $850 for the application fee that is required to file the 501(c)(3) application.  This campaign was successful; and thanks to everyone involved and who contributed.

However, we need to create a Business Plan to lead our organization to becoming viable and sustainable; and we need a Strategy and Objectives Plan that will guide us in the direction we need to go to be successful in carrying out our mission.  Eventually, these two plans would lead to CarWA having a staff, working for the Board of Directors and working with the Committees to ensure that CarWA is the best organization possible.

A third objective was forming partnerships with other organization with similar concerns.  The Triangle Greenways Council and the River Guardian Foundation reached out to us and we have committed to close partnerships with them and especially on future grant opportunities.  The Triangle Greenways Council also has purchased land along the Neuse River for future greenways consideration and ask for our help in surveying the wetlands and advising on management.  We have reached out to several other organizations and are still making contacts.  Of recent note are excellent meetings with the NC Conservation League, the Nature Conservancy, and the Southern Environmental Law Center.  They promise to be beneficial relationships as we are being recognized as having the best pool of wetland talent, both in science and policy, and our expertise is being sought.

We are in the process of putting together a relationship with Duke, to allow students to do projects with CarWA.  The discussion centered around how to communicate our message to legislators and the general public, the values of wetlands and who benefits, social network analysis, survey tools, and more.  We are partnering with NatureServe and WRRI on a citizens science project.  We are also involved with the NC Natural Science Museum for doing presentations and exhibits on wetlands.  We have partnerships with the Town of Cary and the Walnut Creek Wetlands Center.  What we need to do more of these relationships with communities, organizations, museums, etc. in other locations throughout the Carolinas.  I encourage everyone who is in areas outside of the Triangle to work with the Regional Coordinators Committee to establish these kinds of relationships; they will benefit CarWA and hopefully we will be of benefit to whomever we partner with.

Eventually, the Carolina Wetlands Association will apply for grants, carry out projects to further our mission, and potentially have a paid staff.  We will be supporting wetland research, encouraging the use of wetland data to influence wetland policy and management practices to local and state officials and to landowners and communities who depend on their wetland resources.

I am excited to announce that we are on the verge of making our donation goal of $850 to pay for our 501 (c)(3) application!  We have come a long way in a short time, but there is much work to be done.  Everyone on this email list are considered “founding members” because you were all recruited in some manner.  So you are the ones that will make CarWA successful.  Your financial contributions are needed but so in your volunteer time.  We cannot succeed without both.  The founding members of the Carolina Wetlands Association are the backbone of the organization, so please continue to be active, be vocal, be involved!

Thank you for all you do!

Rick Savage, President of the Carolina Wetlands Association

Help us promote wetland values in the Carolinas!

The Carolinas are blessed with a tremendous number and diversity of wetlands. From salt marshes on our coasts, to the mysterious Carolina bays in the coastal plain, to beaver marshes in the piedmont, and bogs in our mountains, wetlands in the Carolinas are a key element of our natural identity and heritage. The Carolina Wetland Association is a newly formed, non-profit group working to spread information about the importance of these natural ecosystems to our vibrant communities and economies in North and South Carolina. Please consider donating money to help us with these important efforts.


Signed: John Dorney, Secretary CarWA

We need your support!

Dear Carolina Wetlands Supporter:

The wetlands of the Carolinas are worth fighting for. We need a renewed appreciation of the value of our wetlands, in terms of the services they provide to us such as clean water, flood control, critical habitat, mitigation of sea level rise, carbon storage, shoreline stabilization, and more!

The Carolina Wetlands Association (CarWA) was formed to promote the value of our wetlands to general citizens, students, and law makers. Since our incorporation in June 2015, we have over a hundred supporters, a strong Board of Directors, several active committees, and involvement by some of the best names in wetland science and policy. We are a young organization, but growing fast and becoming noticed!

Our next major step is to become a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization through the IRS. We are working with the UNC Community Development Law Clinic on the application and we expect to submit it to the IRS by the end of January 2016. We need this status to apply for grants available to us.

This is where you can help. In addition to our 501(c)3 application ($850 fee), we are currently developing promotional materials, sponsoring a conference, and maintaining a website. While we thank all our volunteers who are giving their time, we continue to need funds to cover these costs. Please consider making a donation to the Carolina Wetlands Association at this important time.

To Make Donations through Pay Pal, click on the Button below.

Thank you for your support!

Rick Savage
President of the Carolina Wetlands Association