Environmental DNA Clearinghouse: New Tools for Managers

edna-afsRecent advances in genetic analysis are transforming the ways in which biologists monitor and manage aquatic organisms. Traditional monitoring techniques for aquatic species are often costly and time-intensive, especially when managers need information about rare, elusive, or newly-colonizing species. Analysis of DNA found in the environment, or eDNA, can provide managers with data about the presence and distribution of aquatic species in a timely and cost-effective manner. The American Fisheries Society, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies have teamed up to inform the broader aquatic management community about the promises and opportunities associated with the emerging field of eDNA analysis. Accompanying this article and a forthcoming review paper is an online “clearinghouse” which provides contact information for current eDNA researchers, as well as information about each researcher’s capabilities, tools, and services. This clearinghouse is intended to facilitate connections between the scientists who are developing eDNA technology and managers seeking to apply this technology to conservation questions. The clearinghouse is housed on the American Fisheries Society website: edna.fisheries.org. WHAT IS eDNA ANALYSIS? eDNA analysis uses polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology to amplify genetic material from organisms in water or soil samples (Taberlet et al. 2012). eDNA analysis has been widely applied in freshwater and marine systems, with studies that span a range of vertebrate, invertebrate, and plant taxa, and applications to management problems such as invasive species detection, rare species monitoring, and biodiversity monitoring (Schwartz et al. 2006). RECENT eDNA APPLICATIONS Invasive Species eDNA analysis can facilitate detection and monitoring of invasive species, as in the well-known case of Asian carp (Bighead Carp, Hypophthalmichthys nobilis, and Grass Carp, H. molitrix) in the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal (Darling and Mahon 2011). Rare or Elusive species eDNA analysis also lends itself well to the detection of rare or elusive species. In Idaho, Goldberg et al. (2011) used eDNA to assess the presence of the Rocky Mountain tailed frog (Ascaphus montanus) and the Idaho giant salamander (Dicamptodon aterrimus). Olsen et al. (2012) assessed eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) populations in Missouri and Indiana rivers using eDNA. Community Composition and Biodiversity Monitoring eDNA analysis can also be used to determine species composition and overall diversity of aquatic communities. Thomsen et al. (2012a, b) tested this approach successfully in a controlled mesocosm environment and subsequently applied eDNA analysis to detect aquatic vertebrate and invertebrate species in European ponds, lakes, and streams. THE FUTURE eDNA analysis is a rapidly-evolving field which holds considerable promise for managers who need information about aquatic species and communities. The eDNA clearinghouse is intended to help acquaint managers with this new technology, and to provide a point of connection where managers and researchers can work together to develop new applications of eDNA analysis to solve practical problems in the management of aquatic organisms and ecosystems. Jonathan Mawdsley Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) 444 North Capitol Street, NW Suite 725 Washington, DC 20001. E-mail: [email protected] Arpita Choudhury Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), Washington, DC. E-mail: [email protected]


 • Darling, J. A., and A. R. Mahon. 2011. From molecules to management: adopting DNA-based methods for monitoring biological invasions in aquatic environments. Environmental Research 111(7):978–988.
• Goldberg, C.S., D. S. Pilliod, R. Arkle, and L. P. Waits. 2011. Molecular detection of vertebrates in stream water: a demonstration using Rocky Mountain tailed frogs and Idaho giant salamanders. PLoS ONE 6(7):e22746.
• Olson, Z. H., J. T. Briggler, and R. N. Williams. 2012. An eDNA approach to detect eastern hellbenders (Cryptobranchus a. alleganiensis) using samples of water. Wildlife Research 39:629– 636.
• Pilliod, D. S., C. S. Goldberg, M. B. Laramie, and L. P. Waits. 2013. Application of environmental DNA for inventory and monitoring of aquatic species: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet, Reston, Virginia.
• Schwartz, M. K., G. Luikart, and R. S. Waples. 2006. Genetic monitoring as a promising tool for conservation and management. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 22(1):25–33.
• Taberlet, P., E. Coissac, M. Hajibabei, and L. H. Rieseberg. 2012. Environmental DNA. Molecular Ecology 21(8):1789–1793.
• Thomsen, P. F., J. Kielgast, L. L. Iversen, P. R. Møller, M. Rasmussen, and E. Willerslev. 2012a. Detection of a diverse marine fish fauna using environmental DNA from seawater samples. PLos ONE 7(8):e41732.
• Thomsen, F. P., J. Kielgast, L. L. Iversen, W. Carsten, M. Rasmussen, M. T. P. Gilbert, L. Orlando, and E. Willerslev. 2012b. Monitoring endangered freshwater biodiversity using environmental DNA. Molecular Ecology 21(11):2565-2573.

Fisheries | Vol. 40 • No. 2 • February 2015