Auspicious start for PondNet bodes well for future pond monitoring
30th July 2015
PondNet is off to an auspicious start – our vision of a national pond monitoring programme is becoming a reality.
PondNet is a volunteer-based survey collecting information about trends in pond quality and pond species, including uncommon plants and animals. We ran trials in a few counties in England in 2012-14, and we are now rolling the project out across England and Wales.
We have just completed the first amphibian survey season: volunteers have been carrying our torching and egg searching for great crested newts, looking out for frog and toad spawn and tadpoles, and collecting water samples for DNA analysis, a new great crested newt survey method.
Thanks for letting me take part…the survey was great, I really enjoyed it. If you have any other volunteering opportunities please let me know.
The results are still coming in, but so far a total of 175 volunteers undertook amphibian surveys, contributing 2,016 volunteer hours to the project and returning results from 478 pond sites. This is nearly double our prediction for this stage of the project.
Helping people increase their knowledge and skills is a key part of PondNet, and vital if we are to build the army of naturalists and wildlife lovers we need to protect freshwater wildlife.
A wonderful day yesterday. Many thanks to Francesca (PPW Southern England Regional Project Officer) for organising a great day.
We have run 10 amphibian survey training courses, for over 100 volunteers, across England and Wales this spring, and one-to-one mentoring sessions for 14 volunteers, where Regional Project Officers accompanied new volunteers on their amphibian surveys to provide additional support.
Anyone can take part in PondNet, as we have surveys to suit people with different levels of knowledge and experience. Volunteers with previous experience have helped us to collect critical information on the presence of all amphibians at the sites they’ve surveyed. But, this season, inclusion of eDNA surveys has allowed volunteers with no previous survey experience to contribute valuable, high quality data, on the presence or absence of great crested newts. This has meant many more people could get involved, and collect data from many more sites than we thought possible so early in the project. If we had to rely on traditional survey techniques to gather newt distribution data, we simply would not be able to gather so much data – something that amphibian conservationists have been battling with for a long time.
The variety of surveys running throughout the rest summer mean that even more people can contribute to PondNet, whatever their skills. Volunteers with no previous experience should consider adopting for survey, one of our uncommon plant and invertebrate species, and in doing so, will receive training and become part of an elite team who have seen one of these rare species in the wild. Those with more experience can join up to undertake a full wetland plant or invertebrate survey helping to generate records on sites which have never been surveyed before. We arrange the landowner permission and are on hand to provide additional training and up-skilling where it’s needed.
Engaging so many volunteers in such a short time bodes well for establishing a solid, sustainable volunteer-based pond monitoring system over the coming months and years. But first, we have a few more jobs to complete: the PondNet community’s next task this summer is to survey for uncommon species such as Coral Necklace, Pillwort, Fairy Shrimp, Pondweed Leafhopper and Medicinal Leech, and carry out pond habitat surveys.
Next year we will be asking volunteers to get involved at more ponds, across even more counties. To get involved you can email the People, Ponds and Water team on firstname.lastname@example.org, and get updates by subscribing to our mailing list.
PondNet is part of People, Ponds and Water, a national project that helps people to make a significant difference to protecting our freshwater wildlife. It is lottery funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund.