ARC's Monitoring Dragons Project Officer in North Wales, Joe Franklin shares some exciting news about the expansion of the project and what lies ahead.

The Monitoring Dragons project has sprung back into life during the first few months of 2022. Akin to the early shoots appearing on the tree branches, the project has arisen from a dormant winter and is ready to flourish…!

Building upon the project’s success in South Wales last year, and with an injection of funding from the Landfill Tax Communities Scheme, Monitoring Dragons has gone Wales-wide. The project’s scale means it is the largest of its kind in Wales to date. Now the windswept dunes of Newborough Warren, the rolling hills and ponds of Flintshire, all the way down to the rugged coastal heath of Pembrokeshire and beyond are included within the project’s scope.

Aided by our well trained staff, volunteers will collect and provide the baseline data that goes on to inform Welsh conservation policy. These volunteers, soon to be Citizen Scientists, will be surveying the wealth of habitats Wales has to offer in search of our rarest lizards, internationally recognised protected species, and other herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) that are in decline. Before all of this can happen though there are some foundations that need to be laid!

Our small team of project staff have been busy. Behind the scenes we have been identifying viable sites, acquiring permissions, and carrying out site visits prior to the amphibian breeding season which is now upon us. Alongside this, we have been running online training events which have gone down well. Each session drawing a larger and larger crowd that were inquisitive and eager to learn about the amphibians and reptiles that call Wales home.

Away from the digital realm, I visited Bangor University in March.  I engaged with the student population about Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, the work we do in the UK, the Monitoring Dragons project, and how they can get involved. After the presentation many questions were asked and the students were looking forward to taking their next steps with the project.

What are these next steps you may be asking? Am I able to still get involved? And what if I have no experience? The good news is we have a fair few things up our sleeves, and there is always time and ways to get involved, regardless of experience. As we reacquaint ourselves with the Welsh sun, which is hopefully here to stay, our engagement and training events take on a new lease of life.  We will start to move away from our walled and roofed winter hibernation sites, leave the computer screens behind and transition outdoors. Multiple training events are being arranged by our project officers catering to all interests, be it learning how to identify our native newt species, through to going out on monitoring site tours.

For the next few months the road ahead will be bustling with a variety of exciting tasks. Some we are looking forward to in particularly include meeting our new and existing citizen scientists, engaging with local communities, and spending time surveying in the beautiful places many of us are fortunate enough to call home.

If you are interested in getting involved with Monitoring Dragons, please do get in touch with one of our Project Officers. For any enquiries relating to North Wales email [email protected] , and for South Wales email [email protected]. We look forward to answering any questions that you may have about the project itself, how to get involved, and events happening in your area. For further information do visit our Monitoring Dragons project page.