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BMT explores environmental biosecurity and innovation

at Western Australia Seminar. The eDNA seminar was led by BMT’s Environment partnership at Western Australia.

19 September 2018

Water and Environment

BMT explores environmental biosecurity and innovation

The eDNA seminar (Perth, 5th September 2018) was led by BMT’s Environment partnership at Western Australia, BMT, and chaired by Dr Mark Westera, Principal Marine Scientist at BMT, with invited guest speakers who have been influential in the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) for biological monitoring and management.

The seminar stimulated a lively debate and discussions about eDNA - an innovative biological auditing tool that is critical to the management of environmental efficiencies in various sectors - amongst key industry stakeholders, including oil and gas operators, port owners, regulators and the wider scientific community.

Leading the seminar was Alex Grochowski, Associate Principal Marine Scientist at BMT, who presented several industry-relevant eDNA case studies. These were further illustrated by real world examples and projects that Alex was directly involved in.

Another keynote speaker was Professor Mike Bunce, Head of the Trace and Environmental DNA (TrEnD) Laboratory at Curtin University, who presented on eDNA capabilities and challenges – the knowns and unknowns of this emerging tool. 

Here is a brief recap of seminar highlights, top quotes and resources as presented by BMT Western Australia and its invited guest speakers at Perth:

BMT, an established player in marine monitoring and environmental biosecurity, has been one of the early contributors and supporters of eDNA sequencing technologies, an innovative field with growing capability to address marine ecological issues.

We are proud to have had the opportunity to bring together key stakeholders and provide them with a greater understanding of eDNA and a collaborative platform for discussion about regulatory, economic and environmental issues impacting eDNA applications.

In the words of Alex Grochowski, Associate Principal Marine Scientist at BMT, “eDNA has a range of applications to assist clients with meeting regulatory requirements including environmental impact assessments, biosecurity, identifying rare and threatened species, pathogen and disease testing, which can be undertaken in multi-context environmental conditions, e.g. marine, freshwater and terrestrial; while potentially having advantages over traditional monitoring techniques.

With the rapid advances of technologies and processes in the commercial domain, we will be able to refine our techniques to answer some of the unknowns and try to build confidence in the data produced.”

Adding to that, Professor Mike Bunce said, “The field of eDNA, which has been enabled by next generation sequencing is really booming currently. There have been about 150-200 papers published in this particular area in 2018 alone; it’s going through an exponential increase at the moment.” It’s not too long before regulatory authorities or even companies start to collect and store long-term environmental samples.

They may not analyse all of them – it may be cheaper to collect and store them, for tracking biota impact and flux through time, particularly when an incident occurs.”

Additionally, Professor Bunce led exploratory discussions about the valued-combinations of citizen science and eDNA science programs conducted by Curtin University students that revealed “people are looking for avenues to reach out and better understand the environment.”

Here at BMT, we hope to continue the thought leadership debate about eDNA technologies and remain at the forefront as the unknowns around eDNA are slowly but surely unravelled. Once again, thanks to Professor Mike Bunce, BMT’s Associate Principal Marine Scientist, Alex Grochowski and Dr Mark Westera, as well as Dr Justin McDonald for participating in the seminar to share their vast knowledge of the topic.

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