New project launched in Scotland, April 2016

ARC has started a new project in Scotland, called Great Crested Newt Detectives, with the help of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). This Scotland-wide project has three main elements. Firstly, sampling of pond water by volunteers, to test for the presence of great crested newt DNA. Secondly, free educational sessions for schools about Scotland's amphibians and reptiles. Thirdly, creation of a book and online resource, called "Amazing animals, brilliant science!" which will explain how DNA technology is being used to help Scottish wildlife.


The new method of testing pond water for great crested newt DNA, known as environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling, is proving very popular with volunteers in Scotland. One advantage of this method is that, in contrast to many other survey methods, a protected species licence is not required. Volunteers in England and Wales are also collecting samples, as part of the PondNet project run by the Freshwater Habitats Trust (FHT). Once discovered by eDNA sampling or other methods, great crested newts and their habitat are legally protected.

In 2016, our project has been focused on southern Scotland. In 2017 the focus will be on northern Scotland. To date, training events for volunteers have been provided in Livingston, Melrose, Culzean, Dumfries and Stranraer, plus educational sessions at eight primary schools (Preston Street Primary in Edinburgh, Glenboig Primary in North Lanarkshire, Belmont Primary and Park Primary in Stranraer, Sandhead Primary and Drummore Primary in Wigtownshire, Lincluden Primary in Dumfries and Melrose Primary in the Borders).

   

This autumn, an art and writing competition for all children aged 8-18 in Scotland will be launched as part of this project, with winning entries to be included in the "Amazing animals, brilliant science!" publication. Entry details will be emailed to Scottish schools in September 2016 (entry deadline June 30th 2017) and publicised on ARC's website and social media.

In October 2017, ARC will be holding a conference in Edinburgh in collaboration with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS). The conference will include talks from experts on the application of DNA technology to wildlife conservation in Scotland, an awards ceremony for the children's competition winners and access to Edinburgh Zoo.

A preliminary report on this year's eDNA results from southern Scotland will be available in autumn 2016 but a full project report with the results from 2016 and 2017 (and suggestions for further work) will be published in spring 2018. All records collected as part of this project will be available to the public via www.recordpool.org.uk and ultimately NBN Gateway.

If you are interested in volunteering, or your school would like to take part in this project, please contact Pete Minting, Great Crested Newt Detectives Project Officer, email: pete.minting@arc-trust.org or Tel: 07747 270581, ARC, Suite B10, Strathleven House, Vale of Leven Industrial Estate, Dumbarton, Dunbartonshire, G82 3PD.

If you would like to help sponsor this project, please contact Helen Wraight, Administration and Finance Manager, email: helen.wraight@arc-trust.org Tel: 01202 391319, ARC, 655A Christchurch Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth BH1 4AP. We need to raise another £12,500 by January 2017 in order to fully-fund this project.

   

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