We’re sad to report the death earlier this summer of Mericia Whitfield who was a key member of the original Pond Action team that led to the foundation of the Freshwater Habitats Trust
Mericia Whitfield was an outstanding freshwater naturalist with an exceptional talent for invertebrate biology. Without Mericia’s critical contribution in the organisation’s first 15 years it would have been impossible to establish the Freshwater Habitats Trust as it now exists, and she played an essential role in developing our modern understanding of the importance of small waterbodies.
Mericia joined Pond Action in its very earliest days in 1988 and soon became a key member of the team as her natural talent, skill and dedication became clear. With no formal training in freshwater biology (her degree was in Anthropology and English) it quickly became clear that she had a brilliant knack for recognising invertebrates, as well as a love of ponds more generally.
Mericia played a vital role in collecting and identifying invertebrate samples in the National Pond Survey, the most detailed survey to date of Britain’s ponds, working closely with the another pioneer member of the team, Dave Walker. She also collected much of the invertebrate data for FHT’s single most influential paper on catchment ecology, published in Biological Conservation in 2004. For her, though, the work was always about how to protect the ponds (or rivers or ditches or lakes), usually from mismanagement that failed to understand the needs of freshwater invertebrates.
She was an excellent communicator of her skills to student and non-specialist alike although she shunned the limelight. She had an outstanding literary intellect and made beautiful technical drawings of freshwater animals. She produced a freshwater snail key focussing on the small, difficult to recognise and immature specimens missed out of TT Macan’s key which has yet to be bettered.