BIDDEFORD — From the mouth of the Saco River near Camp Ellis to the sea surrounding Lamu Island, faculty and student researchers will collect water samples to help identify species living in these waters by DNA sequencing. doing.
“Environmental DNA (eDNA) is very good because all living things release it into the environment,” says Emily Pierce (MS, BS, Ph.D.), a professor of marine environmental programs at the University of New England. Professor Dr. Markus Frederich is conducting an eDNA research project in his lab.
In addition to Frederick serving as an advisor, Pearce collaborates with both UNE Associate Professor Carrie Byron, UNE Assistant Professor John Mohan, and the Department of Marine Environment Programs. As three of his UNE graduate students and several of his UNE undergraduates.
“Using a variety of techniques, we can discover through this DNA the types of animals, algae, plankton, sharks, and fish that are there. With just one water sample, we can identify all kinds of different species.” Pierce explains.
Once a month, students go out to collect samples in the rivers near the UNE docks and in the waters around Lamu Island. In the spring, summer and fall years she takes water every 2 hours a day 3 times and he does a 24 hour eDNA sampling.
“Not only do we cover areas near campus over several years, we also get 24-hour profiles over three different seasons,” says Pierce. “It shows what animals, plants, algae and objects may pass at a given time.”
“Our long-term eDNA survey provides a comprehensive data set that supports and enhances multiple ongoing studies,” said Frederich. “We are specifically looking for seasonal changes in fish, especially sturgeon, exotic species, and other species. This kind of search can support specific hypotheses, such as the seasonality of certain animals.” However, it can also lead to unexpected new discoveries.”
Identifying species via eDNA instead of searching for actual animals has never been done before in waters off-campus of UNE.
“The overall goal is to set a baseline for what species are out there and what we can actually detect,” Pierce said. “We might be able to answer more specific questions about patterns of migration and patterns of detection over time. You can see how the community has changed in the face.”
Frederich said once the research is complete, the data collected can be used in a number of ways. “The data we collect is used in different classes,” he said. “All data is available to UNE students and faculty.
This research is funded through an internal UNE mini-grant and complemented through an ongoing eDNA EPSCOR National Science Foundation grant.
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