Using ND-LEEF to quantify dispersal and transport of eDNA

  • Funded By: Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative
  • ECI Investigators: Arial Shogren, Jennifer Tank, Diogo Bolster, Scott Egan, Brett Olds, Eily Andruszkiewicz

Using ND-LEEF to quantify dispersal and transport of eDNA

Environmental DNA (eDNA) is cellular material released from an organism into its environment; sources include secreted feces, mucus, and other tissues. Detecting DNA via grab samples in the environment is an innovative approach that can be used to determine the presence of target aquatic species, including both invasive and endangered species. Using eDNA as assessment tool will enhance the ability of natural resource managers to create targeted strategies, especially in high risk locations like the Great Lakes region. The application of eDNA detection is based on the premise that sloughed tissue from an organism is held in suspension and then can be collected in a water sample, thus revealing the presence or absence of the target organism in close proximity. However, in flowing waters, the target organism may be some distance away from where the eDNA in water is collected. The understanding of the residence time of eDNA in a watershed is limited and based on degradation studies conducted in non-flowing experimental mesocosms or controlled ponds. 

This research at ND-LEEF will build on previous ECI-funded study of eDNA where researchers compared eDNA transport using empirical data obtained from releases in ND-LEEF streams with varying substrate, and laboratory column experiments using the same material. The findings are critical for delimiting the extent of potential invasions or the distribution of threatened and endangered species in flowing waters.

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