Abstracts

Multi-species environmental DNA screen of aquatic species in the Sipsey River in Alabama

Author(s): Mangum, C.; Homyack, J.; Atkinson, C.

The Southeastern U.S. is rich in biodiversity with over 1000 species of fish, mussels and crayfish alone Aquatic species are often cryptic, found in low densities, and their current geographic distribution not well-described. Environmental DNA (eDNA) is an emerging technique to detect and identify species-specific DNA fragments in water and soil samples. Modern genome sequencing technology can obtain millions of DNA sequences from a single sample, making it possible to identify organisms by the residual DNA (e.g., feces, urine, skin cells) they shed in their environment. A pilot project was conducted to use data and samples from a freshwater mussel study for eDNA analysis, to evaluate both the effectiveness of the technology to identify known species and to refine field methods. Dr. Carla Atkinson, University of Alabama, is conducting a field study examining abundance and diversity of freshwater mussels in the Sipsey River, Alabama. The Sipsey River is one of the last free flowing rivers in Alabama and it is considered one of "Alabama's Ten Natural Wonders." The river has a 37 mussel species and 102 fish species reported and represents one of the best remaining and most intact mussel communities left in the United States. Water samples were collected in the vicinity of identified mussel species, and submitted for eDNA analysis. An overview of the mussel study and year one data collection will be presented, as well as eDNA field methodology. This non-invasive screening tool has many uses ranging from verifying presence or absence of threatened and endangered species to monitoring of invasive species. Collecting information on aquatic species is difficult and labor intensive with federal permits need for threatened and endanger species. This method is fast, cost effective, and does not require a permit.

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