On May 31, 2015 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released updated Survey Guidelines for federally-listed threatened and endangered large branchiopods (e.g., fairy shrimp and tadpole shrimp) in California and southern Oregon. To complete a survey for large branchiopods, the new guidelines require that one wet season survey and one dry season survey, in no particular order, be conducted within a three-year period. This is a significant change, as there is no longer an option to conduct two wet season surveys in lieu of a dry season survey. A dry season survey is now required to complete the survey protocol.
The advantage that dry season surveys offer is a reduced overall survey cost and survey time, as well as additional survey window flexibility. Dry season sampling is conducted after vernal pools dry in the spring and prior to the onset of winter rains. Hence, the appropriate timing varies by location and year. Annual rainfall totals and patterns are not an issue, often making dry season survey results more reliable than wet season surveys for project proponents, in some instances.
The new guidelines require that dry season soil collection, processing, and egg identification for large branchiopods be conducted by permitted biologists that have these provisions specifically defined in their USFWS permit. ECORP is one of only a small number of firms with permitted biologists authorized for dry season sampling in California and is the only firm in the state with two such biologists on staff. ECORP currently has ten biologists permitted for large branchiopod wet season sampling in our Rocklin, Redlands, Santa Ana, and San Diego offices. We have sampled vernal pools throughout California.
In instances in which unidentifiable fairy shrimp eggs are found during a dry season survey, USFWS may require that the eggs be sent to an appropriate facility for DNA analysis and identification, or that the eggs be hydrated and reared (cultured) until they are identifiable to species. ECORP has the ability to culture fairy shrimp eggs and partners with a well-qualified lab that can conduct DNA analysis. ECORP has biologists with the additional permit terms and conditions for processing, isolating, identifying, and culturing of large branchiopod eggs/cysts. To expedite processing and reduce costs, we operate an in-house laboratory for conducting these tasks.
If you have questions about the newly issued USFWS guidance or would like to discuss whether conducting surveys may be right for your project, please contact Peter Balfour or Todd Wood at (916) 782-9100 (Northern California), or Kristen Wasz at (714) 648-0630 (Southern California).