Baker Consultants

The Diary of an Ecology Apprentice: Reptile Surveys, eDNA Sampling & Soil Bioacoustics

Having just completed his sixth month as an Ecology Apprentice at Baker Consultants, Matthew Keough reflects back on the key skills he picked up in April in his latest diary entry. From reptile surveys and eDNA sampling to soil bioacoustics and data collection for his dissertation, there’s been plenty for Matthew to get his teeth stuck into this month.

April and May is Great Crested Newt (GCN) mating season, which means they enter ponds to mate and spawn. This allows us to use environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys to check for their presence in ponds rather than the more invasive and time-consuming trapping technique. Last month, I joined colleagues and went to a number of different sites to trudge around ponds, big and small, and take water samples for analysis. So far, no signs of GCNs but, there are still more surveys to go so hopefully I will find some soon!

I also went on my first reptile survey with Rae this month. I had no luck finding any, but did find Common Toads under the roofing felt mats we had placed for the reptiles. Rae and I also ventured to Blackpool to do some preliminary ecological appraisals (PEAs), where we found some nice reedbeds and ponds.

This week, I was fortunate enough to spend a whole day with Baker Consultants’ Director of Bioacoustics, Carlos Abrahams. He showed me how to perform a soil bioacoustics test to determine if more worms in the soil means more sound.

We took a series of five-minute recordings of six pots simultaneously using Carlos’ nifty recording kit. The worms we used are called Anecic Worms. These worms dig vertical tunnels and only venture above surface to grab decaying plant matter to drag down to their burrows, which can be as far as two metres under surface level! The reason these worms were chosen is because of their larger size and the fact that more of them were found in the soil samples than Endogeic Worms. Our project collaborator from the University of Warwick, Dr Jacqueline Stroud, kindly set up the worm buckets and kept them alive and well. I can now independently record soil acoustic data and store it properly, meaning I can now start to gather data for my dissertation. Exciting times ahead…


The Baker Consultants team is highly experienced and we are passionate about what we do. If you need advice related to ecology, surveys or conservation, then please get in touch with us via our contact form on the website, or you can call us on +44 (0)1629 593958 or email us on