Pupils from Thames Ditton Junior School are embarking on a research project – funded by a Royal Society Partnership Grant – to evaluate and monitor the health of local ponds over the next few years. Anne Helme, Education Outreach Manager at the Society, spent the morning finding out what the young scientists were doing.

Thames Ditton Junior school

Armed with nets, sieves and magnifying glasses, 90 Year 6 pupils spent a day sampling the ponds’ biodiversity: identifying species, measuring pH and assessing water clarity. Professor Jonathan Holmes and Dr Carl Sayer from University College London – as well as Nan Davies, the teacher leading the project – were on hand to explain the procedures and help with the identification.

Pond dipping

All sorts of living things emerged from pupils’ nets: caddis fly larvae, water mites, duckweed, to name just a few. Tadpoles at all stages of development were discovered, including tiny frogs and toads, and excitingly there was even a newt or two! Pupils also got to witness a female broad-bodied chaser emerging from its larval home in the pond – it was happy to sit on someone’s hand until it felt strong enough to launch into its first ever flight.

And the pupils’ conclusion of the day’s research? Littleworth ponds were ‘healthier’ than Marney’s pond because many more species were found there and the water was clearer.

The ponds will continue to be monitored on a seasonal basis, with pupils collecting information from data loggers, and carrying out more detailed analysis of environmental variables back in the class. This will allow any changes to the health of the ponds to be detected, and determine if any of them are at risk of deterioration.

More information is available through the project’s webpage.

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