Member Highlight: Could Fish DNA Tests Replace Population Surveys?

2018-11-19T14:25:53+00:00 November 19, 2018|
(Credit: UMCES)

(Credit: UMCES)

(From Chesapeake Bay Magazine/ By Meg Walburn Viviano) — Collecting DNA isn’t just for detectives at the scene of a crime. It’s now being used by environmentalists to track fish species in the water.

Environmental DNA, or eDNA, comes from the cells or waste that fish leave behind while swimming. Researchers take water samples from tributaries, then test them for the presence of a certain species.

“You can scoop up water and know what’s been there,” said Louis Plough of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). “It captures a snapshot of the DNA that has been around in the past couple of weeks.”

In a field test of this new technology, scientists at UMCES and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) took samples to track river herring in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay tributaries. It’s one of the first times anyone has compared eDNA results to traditional catch-and-release sampling results. They found that the DNA tracking worked well and has “great potential” to monitor the abundance and habitat of river herring in the future.

“Sampling a single river, you need a net, crew, permits, it can be expensive,” said Plough, who authored a study on the recent river herring findings. “The eDNA approach is an alternative where you just take water and you get an idea of the abundance of fish.”

How can one little water sample tell scientists which fish used to be there? Researchers developed…

Read the full article here: