Fairy Shrimp Surveys

SummitWest performs both wet and dry season fairy shrimp surveys, including soil processing and hatching.

Unlocking the World of Fairy Shrimp: Protecting California’s Unique Ecosystem

SummitWest founder Chez Brungraber is one of the few permitted individuals worldwide authorized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to perform dry season surveys for the listed fairy shrimp species in California.

Discover the fascinating world of fairy shrimp and why they matter more than you might think. In California alone, there are six endangered fairy shrimp species, collectively referred to as “listed large branchiopods”. While they may look like, and are in fact related to, the Sea Monkeys that your children raise, these shrimp are highly protected both federally and in the state of California. If your development project is situated in their habitat, specialized fairy shrimp surveys may be required. Learn more about the ecology and habitat of these enchanting creatures here.

SummitWest Environmental is your premier partner in understanding the intricate regulations surrounding vernal pools and fairy shrimp surveys. We specialize in providing comprehensive surveys, including both wet and dry season assessments, to ensure your projects align with regulatory compliance requirements.

The Uniqueness of Fairy Shrimp Surveys

Fairy shrimp surveys stand out among wildlife assessments in California due to their distinctive requirements. These surveys involve a twofold approach that matches the shrimp’s life cycle: one set during the active phase when fairy shrimp swim in vernal pools and another during the dormant phase when the pools are dry, and only cysts (or eggs) remain.

If performing protocol-level fairy shrimp surveys, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) mandates that either two wet season surveys or one wet and one dry survey occur.

Many companies overlook this crucial distinction and offer a single wet season survey, which may lead to non-compliance with USFWS regulations and additional costs for clients.

While performing two wet season surveys sounds easier, and may be easier to source as there are more permitted wet season biologists than dry season ones, in the end, this is not the case. Wet season surveys not only come at a higher cost but can also be less accurate. They depend on unpredictable factors like rainfall and water levels in vernal pools, making scheduling a challenge. In contrast, dry season surveys can be conducted year-round in a controlled lab environment, with the only requirement being dry soil.

Distinguishing Wet Season from Dry Season Fairy Shrimp Surveys

It’s important to note that authorization to conduct wet season fairy shrimp surveys doesn’t automatically extend to dry season surveys. When an individual receives authorization from the USFWS under Section 10(a)(1)(A) Recovery Permit for a specific species, it typically signifies they have the authority to perform all necessary activities to fulfill protocol-level survey requirements and ensure their clients comply with regulations (see also our Environmental Permitting Services).

However, fairy shrimp surveys introduce a unique challenge because they require two distinct permits for the same species: one for wet season surveys and another entirely separate permit for dry season surveys. While many individuals may hold approvals for wet season surveys in California, this authorization doesn’t automatically grant them approval for dry season surveys. In fact, the number of individuals worldwide sanctioned for dry season surveys in California is extremely limited.

As a result, locating an authorized expert capable of conducting dry season surveys is a remarkable achievement in itself.

SummitWest: Your Premier Source for Dry Season Surveys

When it comes to dry season fairy shrimp surveys, SummitWest takes the lead. Our team features one of the select few individuals worldwide authorized by the USFWS to conduct these crucial assessments throughout California.

Get in touch with us today to delve into our dry season laboratory services. Learn how SummitWest can not only guarantee your project’s success but also play a vital role in preserving California’s invaluable fairy shrimp populations.

Dry & Wet Season Surveys: What’s Involved

For a comprehensive look at the USFWS protocol, you can find the complete details here.

In essence, if a region boasts vernal pool habitat, it’s highly likely that the USFWS will mandate fairy shrimp surveys. Wet season surveys kick off following significant rainfall events in the fall or winter. They continue on a weekly basis until the pool dries. If the pool experiences renewed wet conditions with standing water, the surveys resume. Survey efforts conclude either when the pool remains dry for the season or when an endangered species presence is confirmed. However, if the potential for multiple endangered species exists, surveys may need to persist until all potential species are located or until the pool dries.

Dry season surveys, as the name suggests, occur after the pools have dried up. A specific amount of soil is collected from each pool and transported to a USFWS authorized laboratory. Here, the soil undergoes filtration through sieves customized to match the cyst type being sought. This is “soil processing”. If cysts are discovered, they are either identified under a microscope or, in the case of Branchinecta cysts, subjected to a hatching process, a process called “culturing”. Identifying Branchinecta cysts to the species level necessitates growing them to adulthood.

See also our Wetlands and Waters Services

Our Expertise: Dry Season Lab

At SummitWest, we excel in our commitment to dry season fairy shrimp work. Our cutting-edge laboratory, located in Bend, Oregon, is meticulously designed to streamline soil processing while eliminating any risk of cross-contamination.

The significance of our approach lies in our unwavering commitment to precision. Fairy shrimp cysts have the potential to become airborne, and any lapses in care, attention to detail, or substandard laboratory practices can compromise the reliability of results.

Our lab boasts a state-of-the-art, 100% customized soil fines separator, tailor-made depth sieves, and a customized filtration system that sets us apart from the rest. Additionally, our culturing bench features sterile glass beakers equipped with air stone bubblers, ensuring a controlled environment that minimizes the likelihood of algal growth, water evaporation, and significant fluctuations in aquatic conditions during the maturation of the shrimp.


SummitWest provides the following services:

  • Vernal pool habitat assessment
  • Vernal pool botanical studies
  • Wet season fairy shrimp surveys
  • Dry season fairy shrimp surveys including processing and culturing
  • Vernal pool mapping
  • Regulatory Compliance Support
  • Mitigation Planning

Surveys for the following species are offered

  • Branchinecta conservatio;
    Conservancy fairy shrimp (endangered)
  • Branchinecta longiantenna;
    Longhorn fairy shrimp (endangered)
  • Branchinecta lynchi;
    Vernal pool fairy shrimp (threatened)
  • Branchinecta sandiegonensis;
    San Diego fairy shrimp (endangered)
  • Lepidurus packardi;
    Vernal pool tadpole shrimp (endangered)
  • Streptocephalus woottoni;
    Riverside fairy shrimp (endangered)

Tailored Solutions for Your Project

At SummitWest, we recognize that every project is unique. We take a customized approach, working closely with you to understand your specific needs, goals, and project requirements. Our experienced team will develop tailored solutions that address potential environmental impacts, maximize efficiency, and streamline the permitting process.

Why Choose SummitWest Environmental?

  • USFWS Permits: We have on staff the permitted individuals necessary to perform both wet and dry season surveys, whereas 99% of other firms will need to contract out the dry season surveys.
  • Expertise: Our team consists of expert wetland scientists and environmental professionals who possess extensive knowledge and experience in vernal pools, fairy shrimp, permitting, and compliance. We stay up-to-date with the latest regulations to provide you with the most accurate and effective guidance.
  • Quality Assurance: We prioritize accuracy and reliability in our assessments. Our rigorous quality assurance procedures ensure that our findings and recommendations are backed by robust scientific methodologies and comply with industry standards.
  • Efficiency: We understand the importance of timely project completion. With SummitWest, you can expect efficient processes, proactive communication, and a commitment to meeting your deadlines. We work diligently to minimize delays and keep your project on track.
  • Comprehensive Services: Beyond vernal pool and fairy shrimp surveys, SummitWest offers a wide range of environmental consulting services, including ecological assessments, impact analyses, mitigation planning, and environmental monitoring. We are your one-stop solution for all your environmental needs.

Partner with SummitWest Environmental

When it comes to vernal pool fairy shrimp surveys, we not only serve clients directly, but we also partner with other consulting firms. If you are in need of a dry season permitted individual to help process your vernal pool soil then SummitWest Environmental is your trusted partner. We combine scientific expertise, regulatory knowledge, and a commitment to delivering exceptional service to help you achieve your project objectives while protecting our precious natural resources.

At SummitWest Environmental, our dedication to vernal pool fairy shrimp surveys extends beyond serving clients directly; we also thrive on collaboration with fellow consulting firms. If you find yourself in search of a permitted expert for dry season soil processing in vernal pools, look no further.

We blend scientific expertise, regulatory acumen, and an unwavering commitment to excellence in service. Our mission is to empower you to meet your project goals while safeguarding our invaluable natural resources.

Contact us today to discuss your project and discover how SummitWest can provide tailored solutions to meet your vernal pool needs.