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NANFA Conservation Research Grant 2013 Awarded

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#1 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 06:47 PM

There were 7 proposals submitted this year to our Conservation Research Grant program. It was an above average group this year, all directed at some kind of conservation question. The committee of myself, Michael Wolfe and Derek Wheaton came to a consensus that one proposal was clearly better than the others. Below is the title, author and two paragraph summary of the goals and benefits of the planned work. Anthony is a doctoral student working with Brady Porter at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Many of you know Brady from his NANFA participation over the years, so we're confident that someone in his lab will do good work with our support. eDNA is a new technology that can pick up incredibly small amounts of DNA from natural waters and accurately identify it to species. Anthony is the recipient of this year's $1000 grant. The following are excerpts from his proposal.

Title: Tracking range expansion and genetic population structure of five Pennsylvania threatened darter species using environmental DNA (eDNA) and molecular genetic techniques.

Submitted by: Anthony Honick, Duquesne University

Goals and Benefits: We have identified five imperiled darter species (bluebreast darter, spotted darter, Tippecanoe darter, gilt darter and river darter) that inhabit large river systems of the upper Ohio River system. In this study we propose to develop and validate environmental DNA sampling (eDNA) for concurrently monitoring range expansion of five imperiled darter species of the upper Ohio River system to overcome traditional sampling difficulties in large riverine habitats. eDNA can be defined as DNA that is extracted from environmental samples (e.g. water, soil, sediment) and is isolated before physical/visual detection of the target species.

Initially, aquarium experiments will be conducted to optimize eDNA detection and develop polymerase chain reaction (PCR) primers. These initial aquarium-based experiments will serve to develop and validate eDNA detection to monitor imperiled darter species as an accurate, non-invasive technique that will save time, labor, and reduce sampling costs. Further benefits include accurate target species identification, and enhanced species detection sensitivity. Once verified, eDNA detection will be used in conjunction with traditional sampling to monitor the expansion of imperiled darter species and identify critical riverine and spawning habitat. Future studies will determine darter genetic population structure to better understand the dynamics related to dispersal, gene flow, and range expansion which will facilitate management strategies that prioritize conservation efforts toward genetically diverse source populations compared to smaller, genetically depauperate, and ephemeral sink populations.

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