The ability to detect and monitor species of management concern is crucial in assessing the need for, and assuring the success of, habitat restoration and conservation efforts. Traditional animal survey techniques often involve labor-intensive methods that can damage sensitive species and their habitats. Environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis is a time-efficient and non-destructive technique that can replace traditional survey methods in many cases. eDNA analysis involves using molecular techniques to infer species presence by detecting DNA shed into the environment. By collecting small water or soil samples and targeting DNA sequences specific to species of interest, it is possible to collect information on these species’ presence without directly observation.
Aquatic systems lend themselves to eDNA survey methods because DNA material is easily filtered out of water samples. Individual species can then be detected using quantitative PCR with species-specific primers. Alternatively, multiple species can be detected using metabarcoding with more general taxon-targeting primers. Research in our lab uses both methods to detect both native and non-native mollusks, fishes, and amphibians.