PondNet eDNA Monitoring for GCN 2019 Update

With thanks to funding from Defra and Natural England, volunteers and FHT staff have been kept very busy throughout May and June collecting eDNA samples for the fifth year of our PondNet monitoring programme for Great Crested Newts.

Using kits provided by FeraScience, 131 randomly selected 1 km grid squares spread across England where sampled. Visiting the same ponds annually helps to build a picture of status and change of these protected species. In total 380 ponds within these grid squares were visited, along with a further 16 ponds on two of our Flagship Ponds site…..a huge undertaking in just two months!

Our Northern Project Officer, Anne, started her eDNA odyssey travelling around Northumbria, Cumbria and Lancashire linking up with volunteers and site managers on the way.

From lowland farm ponds to remote Cumbrian tarns, there was never a dull moment and it was also great to find physical signs of GCN with both eggs and adult newts seen.

Farmland pond in Northumbria


A wonderfully remote Cumbrian Tarn


Great Crested Newt and GCN egg seen whilst out surveying in the North East


Meeting up with staff from both Forestry England and the National Trust whilst whilst out surveying in Cumbria and Lancashire


Anne also visited a few of our Flagship Ponds  on her travels including one of our most urban sites, North Blackpool Pond Trail, where she was very glad to get some help from Pauline Taylor, Senior Ecological Officer with Groundwork Cheshire, Lancashire & Merseyside.

Linking up with Pauline Taylor on the North Blackpool Pond Trail, one of our most urban Flagship Pond sites

Under Pauline’s guidance, the organisation has done a tremendous job managing  the site which forms a green corridor linking a historic but little known network of ponds and wetlands, a lake, ditches and a reedbed, running  through Bispham on the outskirts of Blackpool in Lancashire. It can be tricky surveying urban sites for GCN using traditional methods so eDNA is a great way to detecting these enigmatic amphibians.

Back over the border to Yorkshire and  some of our sites in the county offer up a real contrast with some of the highest ponds, Lodge Edge near Keld, at 635m altitude….with a mammoth walk to the summit, and some of the lowest on Towthorpe Common, Strensall at 65m altitude.

Ponds high up in the Yorkshire Dales


Wonderful lowland pond near York on Towthorpe Common


Volunteers from TWWiG

Heading south and into the Midlands, Anne teamed up with volunteers in Shropshire to survey a suite of seven ponds created on and old landfill site and a great home for Great Created Newts….

….all the ponds sampled in 2018 tested positive, so it’ll be really interesting to get the results this year. Volunteers from Telford West Wildlife Group (TWWiG), a group affiliated to Shropshire Wildlife Trust, proved a great help!

One of the many ponds on this old landfill site near Telford


A little bit of help for Pete!

Still in the Midlands, this time in Herefordshire, Central Project Officer Pete, also had a helping hand with some of the surveys he carried out….

….this time his daughter Nora….great to get the next generation enthused young!

In South and Central areas Naomi and Gemma also visited a variety of different water bodies including manicured ornamental ponds and naturally beautifully woodland ponds. Both sites have tested positive for GCN in the past, so again, it will be interesting to see what results come back this year.


Wonderful woodland pond


Ornamental Pond


So after two months of intensive surveying all the kits were collected up and safely shipped back to the labs at FERA ready for the analysis. We are now looking forward to getting the results in!

All the completed eDNA kits boxed up and back at FERA

For more information, please click on the links in the image galley below:



2 responses to “PondNet eDNA Monitoring for GCN 2019 Update”

  1. Is it possible for the area of habitation to be increased by introducing Great Crested Newts to other suitable environments?

    • Hi John. Thanks for your question. Essentially yes, however, you would first need to ascertain why they are not there naturally, and this could be for a variety of reasons that are not immediately obvious. Secondly, due to the legal protection afforded to Great Crested Newts, it is actually illegal to translocate them without obtaining a licence from Natural England, which would not be granted without a specific conservation reason. I hope this answers your question.

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