29th Sept 2016

Three new great crested ponds have been detected in southern Scotland by environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling in 2016, as part of our Great Crested Newt Detectives project. Positive eDNA results were recorded from ponds where great crested newts had not previously been recorded at Cummertrees in Dumfriesshire, Coldingham in the Borders and Culzean Country Park in Ayrshire. According to ARC's Great Crested Newt Detectives Project Officer, Dr Pete Minting: "The result from near Coldingham is interesting because it suggests that great crested newt populations in the Central Belt of Scotland may be linked to those in north-east England. Until now, there appeared to be a gap in their distribution between Dunbar and Berwick-upon-Tweed." BBC South Scotland also reported on the exciting Coldingham discovery.

Great crested newts were first found trapped in a manhole near Coldingham in June, by engineers working on broadband cables. After the newts had been rescued (under licence, by consultant Peter Leach and Borders Council ecologist Andy Tharme) ARC asked volunteers to look for likely breeding ponds and collect water samples. A nearby pond gave a positive DNA result and later, great crested newt larvae were found in the same pond.

At Cummertrees in Dumfriesshire, great crested newts were detected in a farm pond two kilometres west of their nearest known site. Volunteer Sara Pintado said: "We couldn't really see into the pond, as the cattle in the field had made it a bit muddy, so it is good that we were able to get a result with the DNA test." Great crested newts were previously known from Culzean in Ayrshire but DNA testing has detected them in a new 1km grid square.

The great crested newt and its habitat is protected by law and a licence from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is usually needed when surveying for this species. However, a licence is not needed when collecting water samples for environmental DNA (eDNA) tests, so participation in the Great Crested Newt Detectives project is more straightforward for volunteers.

Next year, ARC will be focusing on sites further north, so if you are interested in volunteering, please contact pete.minting@arc-trust.org In 2017, free training events (where sampling kits will be provided) will be held near Glasgow, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness, Fort William, Oban and Campbeltown.