The results have shown that the eDNA technique was both remarkably effective for detecting newts, and that the water samples could be easily collected by untrained volunteers.
In early summer 2013, 100 volunteers across the UK received test kits in the post, together with a simple instruction sheet. Without further training or need for a survey licence, they collected and preserved a single water sample from 250 ponds where Great Crested Newts were known to occur and posted the kit back for analysis. Subsequent laboratory testing showed that the eDNA techniques correctly detected newts in 91% of these ponds.
A more detailed study of 35 ponds in Hampshire and North Wales looked at how well the eDNA test detected newts over time. These intensive studies showed that a single water sample taken at any time during the newt breeding season, from late April to June, is almost certain to detect newts when they are present. DNA detected the animals on 139 out of 140 occasions when the ponds were visited – a 99.3% rate of detection.
Both the volunteer and detailed surveys were better than any combination of traditional survey methods for finding Great Crested Newts (torch counting at night, bottle trapping or searching for eggs).