Environmental DNA (eDNA) is now being used predominantly for determining the presence or likely absence of rare, invasive or protected species in freshwater habitats, such as the great crested newt (GCN).
We work in collaboration with university laboratories to collect and analyse water samples – 400 last season and, we expect, more this year. Initial test samples are taken at the start of the season from ponds where GCNs are known to be present in some and absent in others. This enables the sampling kits and the laboratories’ standard to be tested before the beginning of the season.
This season, an initial test for sample integrity was completed on two different ponds located close to our Guildford office. One of the ponds was located in the Surrey Research Park, where the absence of GCN is known from previous survey data. The other pond was located in Merrist Wood College, where the presence of GCN is known, as we regularly use this site for staff training on GCN survey techniques. The samples have now been sent to the laboratories for analysis and we are awaiting the results.
This partnership benefits both us and the universities in several ways. For instance, the laboratories benefit financially and are able to employ an assistant to undertake the lab work during the season. The partnership also enables us to submit joint proposals aimed at improving research, which can ultimately be applied in the ecology industry. Thomson Ecology also delivers courses such as Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) training to MSc students at the universities which help develop the next generation of ecologists and support MSc students in conducting research projects into the applied use of eDNA.
For our clients the use of eDNA can provide clear cost and time saving benefits, and further research is likely to extend this practice into other areas of ecological survey.