Guidance to Volunteer Amphibian and Reptile Surveyors and Recorders

Updated: 03/06/2020

ARC has continued to keep government guidance on Covid-19 coronavirus under review, with the aim of resuming our surveys when changes to restrictions allowed. We have been liaising closely with other NGOs that operate volunteer monitoring schemes and JNCC to ensure that our interpretation of government guidance aligns with agreed practice and puts the health of volunteers, staff and the public first.

The release of further updates from the different country devolved governments on the changes each country is making to lockdown restrictions means that we have once again updated our own guidance to volunteers.  Note that since Government restrictions to control the spread of Covid-19 continue to diverge across the UK, our position on what surveillance can be done also varies geographically.  Volunteers should continue to follow the government guidance that applies in their area.

In overview:

England - volunteers who live and survey in England and who have any relevant (e.g. landowner, land manager) permissions in place may resume their surveys.

Scotland – volunteers in Scotland who have a survey site close to where they live (e.g. “broadly within 5 miles of their local community”) and who have any relevant (e.g. landowner, land manager) permissions in place may resume their surveys. In the spirit of the guidance, please “travel by walk, wheel or cycle” if possible.  If the site where you survey is further away, please do not survey until government guidance permits travel further afield.

Wales - volunteers in Wales who have a survey site within “broadly 5 miles of where they live” and who have any relevant (e.g. landowner, land manager) permissions in place may resume their surveys. If the site where you survey is further away, please do not survey until government guidance permits travel further afield.

Northern Ireland – volunteers who live and survey in Northern Ireland and who have any relevant (e.g. landowner, land manager) permissions in place may resume their surveys.

Wherever you live and survey it is important that you follow the government guidance that applies in your region regarding travel, social distancing and health and safety measures. In all cases, we ask that you follow the general principles set out below.

General guidance for volunteers undertaking surveys

Please ensure that you follow the government guidance on health and safety at all times.The fundamental consideration when undertaking any survey work is to ensure that it does not risk your own health or that of anyone else.

You must not undertake the survey if you or any member of your household has symptoms of Covid-19, or if you or anybody you are living with is self-isolating because of previous symptoms.

If you are surveying outside the boundary of your own property, please be especially sensitive to any concerns landowners or residents may have regarding your survey visits, access routes to the survey site, or where you park, checking in advance of the survey that you have permission from the relevant person(s) e.g. the landowner or land manager on private land.  

Access to some land that is normally open to the public has been closed or restricted during the current health crisis, to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus. Do not survey on any such site without ensuring that you have the relevant permissions.  Respect any additional restrictions that are in place for parking arrangements in popular areas.

Please do not undertake the survey as a group activity; follow the regional guidance on the number of people allowed to meet outdoors. If it is safe to do so, consider doing the survey by yourself and let somebody else know where you are going and when you have returned safely.

If you normally undertake your survey with a buddy for safety in the field, we advise that this should be somebody from your own household (follow the regional guidance on who you are allowed to meet). If the person who acts as your safety buddy in the field is not part of your household, you must not share a vehicle and you should remain at least 2m apart for the whole of the survey.

Please remember there is no obligation to survey and if you feel uncomfortable with resuming surveys for any reason (for example if you are shielding somebody who is vulnerable), then please do not do so.

This is clearly a rapidly changing situation and we will continue to monitor things closely and communicate changes to you as rapidly as possible. If the government position changes we may, regrettably, have to suspend our surveys again.

Information on specific surveys

The coordinators of our different projects and surveys have been contacting volunteers directly to update them. In addition to the government guidance, there are some local considerations affecting the implementation of specific surveys that project coordinators must take into account (for example, on-the-ground preparations which were not possible to do during the lockdown or the confirmation of access permissions). This means that in some cases, although a survey has mainly resumed, some sites remain closed for surveying until further notice.  We understand how frustrating this will be, but ask that you support us, as we seek to re-establish surveys and at the same time ensure that we are operating the surveys safely and being sensitive to partners, landowners and local residents.

Which surveys have restarted?

The following surveys have restarted subject to volunteers following the government guidance that applies in their area and ARC’s general guidance above:

Natterjack toad monitoring programme (Contact point: [email protected]).

NARRS (National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme (Contact point: [email protected]).

Surveys on ARC nature reserves (Dorset Fixed Survey Unit surveys contact point: [email protected], Weald contact point [email protected]).  These surveys are re-starting where they are individual (not group) activities.

The Snakes in the Heather team (Contact point: [email protected]) are making preparations to start surveys at selected locations this summer.

You are welcome to submit data from any part of the United Kingdom to:
Garden Dragon Watch (see www.arc-trust.org/news/garden-dragon-watch-is-now-live )
Records collected incidentally whilst on daily exercise can be submitted to Record Pool.