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Wondrous Wood Frog Tadpole Tales

Last updated on December 18, 2022

Concept of image: 

On doing research of monotype artists, as soon as I saw the image of Michelle Lindblom called “Nature Revelations II,” I knew I wanted to create a monotype print of a vernal pool-

Lindblom’s piece, instantly reminded me of research I had read on ash leaves being the best leaf substrate for the development and survivability of wood frog tadpoles, one of the key indicator species found in vernal pools. Lindblom’s blue and green colors, leaf shapes, and stencil of small circles reminded me of egg masses found in vernal pools in the spring. I have been involved in monitoring and educating about wetlands and vernal pools at several points in my academic career.

Vernal pools are seasonal depressional wetlands that occur in glaciated areas of the northeastern U.S. The depressions are covered by shallow water for variable periods mostly in the spring when the frost, snow and ice have melted.  They may be completely dry for most of the summer and fall.  Vernal pools provide essential breeding habitat for certain amphibian species- salamanders and frogs.  The juvenile and adult forms associated with vernal pools are an important food source for small carnivores as well as large game species in the surrounding, upland habitat.

I have written a book of poetry about vernal pools and upon being inspired by Lindblom’s print, I now know I want to make prints to illustrate my poems.

I created multiple prints so I would have plenty for experimentation purposes; all show wood frog eggs developing on ash leaves in a vernal pool.  The prints pay tribute to the value of ash leaves in the development of wood frog eggs and reminds us of the problems with the invasive emerald ash borer insect that threatens New Hampshire’s ash trees.  The decline of ash trees will have a secondary ecological effect on organisms that breed in vernal pools, particularly on wood frog development.

Steve Faccio synthesized research that showed that tadpoles raised in artificial pools with Green Ash leaves developed faster, grew stronger, and survived better than tadpoles exposed to leaves from other plants, including White Oak and Red Maple, primarily because of the nutritional quality and lack of tannin acid in the ash leaves, (Freshwater Biology, 2013).  The cited study found different species of leaves have varying effects on water chemistry, phytoplankton abundance, and tadpole development (Faccio, Steve, “Ecological Effects of Emerald Ash Borer,” in VT Center For Ecostudies’ Field Notes, fall 2018,

Executing the print:

My process involved four steps:

1. Bobbi Baugh is an artist who includes images of the steps of her mono printing; her work influenced my process, Bobbi Baugh Studio.  As Bobbi describes and shows, she made several “pulls” of paper from ink on her gelli plate for background color, before laying on her stenciling. Similarly, I did a rainbow roll of different greens, browns, and yellows on a gelli plate, for my background color, to look like the bottom of a vernal pool.

I cut up different colors of printing paper and used drawing paper; for a wide variety of backgrounds on which to experiment.

2. My second step involved inking up real ash leaves I collected from Langdon Woods near my home in Plymouth, N.H.  I used the leaves as a stamp.  The yellowish and orangish ink for the leaves is a vibrant color which contrasts with the mostly sage green background. I overlapped some of the leaves, stamping the paper twice in some cases; the leaves fell apart as I continued to work.

3. Next, I carved a small piece of lino material with wood frog tadpoles swimming in different directions. I inked this matrix in dark brown and laid my paper on top of this and used the Barren printing tool to apply pressure.

4. For a final stage,` to show a ripple effect made by tadpoles swimming around in a pool I hand painted blue ripple marks.

Ash trees are being affected by the Emerald Ash Borer.  More insect damage means fewer ash trees, leading to fewer ash leaves ending up in vernal pools, and less survivability of wood frog tadpoles, an important species in forest ecosystems.


The total time spent on the project was approximately sixteen hours- researching artists, 3 steps of printing, letting the paper dry between each step, (inking up the gelli plate, stamping ash leaves and then stamping wood frog tadpoles), painting ripple marks, and writing my artist’s notes.

Title:  Wondrous Wood Frog Tadpole Tales

Alliteration appeals to me, hence, “wondrous wood frogs.”  The last word- “tales”- has a double meaning; in the amphibian stage, the wood frogs have “tails,” and the “tales” refers to the story about the research indicating the importance of ash leaves to the wood frogs and the threat of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer insect pest to ash leaves in Northeastern forests.

As of fall 2022, I have four ash trees in my yard that are affected by the Emerald Ash Borer that I need to have cut down. I am not alone in the community and a class at Plymouth State University has helped map affected trees. There are also ash trees on the Plymouth State University campus in Hyde Parking lot that show evidence of the Emerald Ash Borers.


I sent a copy of the matted, framed print to Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE), cited above, who has a citizen science vernal pool program to help gather data and raise awareness about the importance of vernal pools, Vernal Pool Conservation | Vermont Center for Ecostudies (

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