PondNet Great Crested Newt eDNA survey back for another year

We’re very pleased to be carrying out a third year of our Great Crested Newt eDNA survey

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PondNet volunteers collecting a water sample for eDNA analyses (c) CaroRance via Twitter

Great Crested Newts are one of the UK’s rarest amphibians, although they are still widespread enough that lucky people may still encounter one when they are out and about. Traditionally to undertake a survey for this illusive protected species, you would need a licence and be able to commit to undertake a minimum of four night time visits during the breeding season. Until recently it has not been possible to monitor enough sites on a regular basis in this way, to be able to predict changes in the UK’s Great Crested Newt population.

A male Great Crested Newt (c) Jim Foster, Natural England

A male Great Crested Newt (c) Jim Foster, Natural England

In 2013 Freshwater Habitats Trust were instrumental in testing a new technique for detecting the presence of Great Crested Newts – eDNA – environmental DNA. Using this technique it is possible to achieve the same level of detection as the traditional methods, but only one daytime visit is required to collect a water sample.

Traditional newt survey methods involve repeat visits in daylight and at night - here PondNet volunteers are learning about amphibian survey methods (c) Will Watson

Traditional newt survey methods involve repeat visits in daylight and at night – here PondNet volunteers are learning about amphibian survey methods (c) Will Watson

Over the last two years of our PondNet project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and also with funding from Valpak, Thames Water, Defra, Natural England and Welsh Government, we have set up and run the first eDNA national monitoring network for Great Crested Newts. Initially we had funding for two years of survey, but now thanks to funding from Defra we are able to undertake a third year of survey.

Volunteers at Skipwith Flagship Pond site were trained to carry out an eDNA survey on their site in 2016

Volunteers at Skipwith Flagship Pond site were trained to carry out an eDNA survey on their site in 2016

From May to June, we will be surveying 330 ponds at 100 randomly selected 1 km grid squares from our PondNet network. We have already recruited all the volunteers required for the survey and the kits have just been delivery by the SpyGen laboratory, so we are ready and raring to go!

With three years of data we can now do some interesting analysis and start to look at trends in the status of Great Crested Newts at a national level. We will bring these findings to you later in the year. Exciting stuff!

 

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