In March we received funding from Natural England, to carry out the sixth year of our annual national PondNet eDNA survey for great crested newts. The lockdown meant it was touch and go as to whether we could safely carry out the surveys, which we usually start in late April and May, when great crested newt activity is at its peak.
The kits, provided by Fera Science, were put ‘on ice’ until restrictions were lifted enough to allow FHT staff, and a few volunteers, to get out to collect the samples. We prepared a new set of survey standards to ensure we followed social distancing guidelines and set up a home hub to receive and prepare the kits. In just one month, we pulled out all the stops, mobilised the troops and managed to collect samples from the 380 ponds in 131 1 km grid squares in England’s survey network. A big thank you has to go out to all the landowners who, at short notice, allowed us onto their sites.
Thankfully, due to a wet spring and bouts of rainfall in May, we found that the permanent ponds and many of the semi-permanent ponds were still holding water. The biggest problem we had, surveying a month later that normal, was the vegetation growth around many of the ponds, especially nettles and brambles …. and the size of the mosquitoes …. itchy legs all round!
The kits are now safely back with the lab and we are looking forward to getting the results back in the autumn. In the last five years newt occupancy has been relatively stable, but we have detected great crested newt movement between core and peripheral ponds, in response to annual rainfall and temperature. It will be interesting to see what the newts have made of conditions this year.
We have put together a little video to showcase the many different pond types sampled this year, click on the link below to view!
To find out more about Environmental DNA and view the results form previous years surveys, click on the links below…