Ecologists in England and Scotland, collaborating with ecologists Christopher Sutherland and Joseph Drake at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, report this week on a new method of identifying an “entire community of mammals” – including elusive and endangered species that are otherwise difficult to monitor – by collecting DNA from river water.
“Some mammal species are notoriously difficult to monitor,” says environmental conservation Ph.D. student Drake. He adds that traditional survey methods are often tailored to a specific species, and therefore don’t guarantee the detection of many other important species that are also present. Camera traps have improved the way conservation scientists study wildlife, but environmental DNA (eDNA) methods may offer a monitoring tool that could revolutionize conservation and ecology research, Sutherland adds, but the method required testing.
He adds, “We knew the potential of eDNA was massive, but when it comes to conservation, it is extremely important that we validate new approaches, and that’s what we set out to do in this study.” Details of their international collaborative work are in the Journal of Applied Ecology. MORE
Header image: Samuel Browett, a grad. student at Univ. of Salford, U.K., collects water near a camera trap in a riparian area while monitoring for evidence of the surrounding mammal community. Credit: Joseph Drake.