The Natural History Museum's pond and wildlife garden

Join the GenePools team to investigate the hidden and invisible life within ponds in urban areas, and their benefit to the environment.

Together we are investigating the fascinating life that dwells in ponds, using novel DNA sequencing methods.

Community scientists survey their pond and send in samples of the pond water. They then receive a detailed report of what the DNA analysis has found living in their pond.

The project is then diving into all the collected data to explore how we can enhance biodiversity in ponds, for the benefit of both people and wildlife.

GenePools is a partnership between Natural England, Cefas, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the Natural History Museum.

At a glance

Investigate hidden pond life.

Type of activity: Outdoor sampling of your pond and an online survey.

Who can take part? Anyone who has permission and access to an enclosed pond in one of six cities: 
Plymouth, Bristol, London, Cambridge, Newcastle and Manchester.

When? April - July 2024.

Where? Any enclosed pond that you have permission to sample. This might be your own pond, someone else's private pond or a community pond for which you have the right to sample.

How long will it take? Sampling will take about 15-20 minutes. Online forms, up to 20 minutes to fill in.

How to take part

Our method lets you extract the material we want to analyse in a few simple steps.

1) To take part, please complete the sign-up form.

2) We will then send you all the kit you need to take part.

3) Follow the instructions to take your sample and return it to be analysed in the envelope we provide.

4) Finally, complete a short online survey to provide us with some background information on your pond to help us interpret the results. Please note: Only those samples for which we receive completed surveys will be analysed.

Using your data

The personal data we collect from you will be held by the Natural History Museum and only used to contact you about this project. For more information about how the NHM processes personal data, please read the Privacy notice.

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‘Garden ponds are an important and unique part of the urban ecosystem, but scientists like me rarely have the opportunity to study them. I’m interested in how new technologies like sequencing the DNA in pond water can provide information about the functioning and health of aquatic habitats.’ 

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David Bass

Cefas, lead researcher in the GenePools team

Building on our investigations

This is the third round of the project - last year we worked with 200 volunteers across Bristol, London and Newcastle. The first round was a huge success and 164 ponds were surveyed in total. We found over 2,250 species, spanning everything from microbes less than one micron in size, to beetles, parasitic wasps, chickens, foxes and dogs.

Thank you to everyone who was involved. We wouldn’t be able to do this science without you, our community scientists. We are still analysing the data for publication, and hope you can take part in the survey this year. We also welcome new volunteers from our new cities. 

Video explainers and online ID guides

Watch the video below for an overview of environmental DNA (eDNA) or read our article.

Watch the Museum's Identification and Advisory Officer, Florin Feneru, sample a pond using the GenePools kit.

Project team and contacts

If you have any queries, please contact the Community Science team at with 'GenePools' in your subject line.

Project partners

Natural History Museum logo
 Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment logo