Battersea frog image launches OPAL water survey

12 May 2010

Giant frogs and dragonflies covered Battersea Power Station in London last night for the launch of the OPAL Water Survey, a national initiative to get people to explore England’s lakes and ponds, collecting valuable scientific information along the way.

Anyone can take part in the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) Water Survey by looking out for creatures such as dragonfly larvae and water beetles, and taking water measurements such as the pH (acidity) level of the water. Upload your findings to the website and then the results will be used to help scientists and conservationists better protect these vulnerable freshwater habitats.


OPAL is an England-wide initiative to inspire and support communities to explore and protect their local environment, with the help of some of the country's leading scientists. The 16 partners include the Natural History Museum, The Open University, Imperial College and 9 regional universities.

Damaged and neglected habitats
Giant dragonflies on Battersea Power Station. Look out for dragonfly larvae in the water survey

Giant dragonflies on Battersea Power Station. Look out for dragonfly larvae in the water survey

The majority of ponds and lakes are either damaged by pollution or neglected, making them one of the most threatened environments in the landscape, recent research by Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) and Pond Conservation shows.

Ongoing research is being carried out by an OPAL team from University College London (UCL) and their findings back up existing studies into the quality of England’s freshwaters by the Environment Agency.

Dr Neil Rose, OPAL Water Centre, University College London (UCL), says, 'England has thousands of lakes and ponds which play a vital role in protecting our freshwater plants and animals.

'Although we know a lot about some of our larger, more famous lakes, there are huge gaps in our knowledge about the vast numbers of smaller waters dotted all over the landscape.

'We need to know where the best sites are so we can protect them properly; and who knows what we might find once people start to take a closer look?'

Garden ponds too

People with garden ponds are encouraged to take part as very little is known about these popular habitats. 

Dr Jeremy Biggs, Pond Conservation Director, explains. 'Last year our Big Pond Dip took a detailed look at wildlife garden ponds to help us to understand more about these hugely abundant habitats. 

'There are between 2 and 3 million in English gardens alone, and we know very little about them.'

Start the OPAL Water Survey

There is a free identification guide and workbook to download on the OPAL website. This will help you look for the commonly found animals, such as dragonfly larvae and water beetles, that can indicate the health of the habitat. You can also help by taking water clarity and pH measurements. 

After you've uploaded your findings to the website, you'll be able to see the results on an interactive map that updates as more results are added.

The OPAL Water Survey has been developed by scientists from UCL in partnership with Pond Conservation and Buglife - The Invertebrate Conservation Trust and is funded by a grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

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