Ponds dug for amphibians at Writtle College

November 2012

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(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

Conservation students dig ponds for amphibians at Writtle College

Twenty conservation students have been digging new ponds for the amphibian population at Writtle College.

The first, second and third year BSc (Hons) Conservation students dug the two ponds, measuring 5m by 3m.

There are four breeding amphibians on the College’s 220-hectare estate – the Common Frog, Common Toad, Smooth Newt and the Great Crested Newt, an endangered species that is protected by European legislation. The College also has the second biggest breeding population of toads in Essex.

The ponds will be left to develop naturally and conservation students will monitor their populations to see how quickly the amphibians take to them. The students also created two hibernacula out of logs at the side of each pond so the amphibians and reptiles have warm, moist environments where the weather conditions are stable so they can hibernate over winter.

Alan Roscoe, Conservation Lecturer at Writtle College, said: “We are doing this as we take our responsibility to these animals very seriously, but, at the same time, we can provide an educational opportunity for our students. We have lost many ponds in our arable landscape in recent decades but even small ponds can possess high conservation value.”

Jenny Cox, a first year BSc (Hons) Conservation student who hopes to become an education officer on a reserve once she graduates, was part of the team digging the ponds.

The 22-year-old from Southminster said: “The pond-digging has been great as it’s given us the practical side of the course, as well as the academic. It’s nice to get out of lectures and put our ideas into practice.

“I’ll be interested to see what amphibians find their way into these ponds and to monitor their populations while I’m at Writtle College. We were also out creating stag beetle pits last week – it’s great to know our work will be a legacy after we’ve finished our course.”

Ray Cranfield, Chairman of the Essex Amphibian and Reptile Group (EARG), was also helping at the pond-digging and caught a Common Frog to introduce into the ponds.

He said: “Our frogs, toads and newts are under serious threat so it is really good to see Writtle College students out, doing their bit to improve the situation.”

The pond-digging was part of Inspiration and Activity Week at Writtle College. Other activities for Conservation postgraduate and undergraduates during the week included:

• A Speakers’ Corner, with an Essex biodynamic farmer and a representatives from Essex Buglife among those talking

• The Essex Farming Conference. Entitled ‘Farmers – Custodians of the Countryside’ Fact or Fiction?’ this event was run jointly with the Essex Agricultural Society. It included a number of influential speakers and considered whether sustainability and ‘green’ issues can be integrated into high yield modern production methods.

• A Brownfield Conference entitled ‘Invertebrates, habitats, survey, management, UKBAP, mitigation and legislation’. Run by Buglife, the invertebrate conservation trust, it also included speakers from Natural England, Butterfly Conservation and various experts in the field such as local entomologist Dr Peter Harvey.

• The Food Conference - the fifth University of Essex and Writtle College Interdisciplinary Conference. This conference addressed how food is produced, consumed, transported, depicted and marketed in today’s society.