Environmental DNA sequencing technologies (Australia)

Environmental DNA is a new approach for detecting the presence of marine and terrestrial species. BMT has been actively exploring and supporting the development of this innovative tool for marine monitoring and management.

27 December 2018

Water and Environment

Environmental DNA sequencing technologies (Australia)

Environmental DNA is a new approach for detecting the presence of marine and terrestrial species. BMT has been actively exploring and supporting the development of this innovative tool for marine monitoring and management.

Environmental DNA (eDNA) sequencing technologies is an innovative tool for marine monitoring and management. It is a new approach for cost-effectively detecting the presence of marine and terrestrial species. Potential applications for this technology include:

• Biosecurity: it helps to detect introduced species in ship ballast, on fixed structures or in agriculture

• Environmental impact assessment: baseline/ongoing monitoring, auditing and compliance

• Conservation: it helps to detect the presence/absence of threatened species 

• Climate change impacts: it improves the understanding of regional changes in species composition

Since 2016 BMT has contributed to the Trace and Environmental DNA (TrEnD) Laboratory at Curtin University, in an Australian Government ARC Linkage funded project, to develop eDNA tools for our clients. In one of our projects in Australia BMT utilised eDNA sampling in conjunction with traditional monitoring techniques as part of an assessment of fish diversity in tidal creeks. We established that eDNA detected a greater range of species with considerably less sampling effort relative to the qualitative and quantitative techniques used in this survey. eDNA sampling also detected species not identified through alternative methods including cryptic, benthic, large pelagic, rare, vulnerable, threatened and juvenile individuals. 

Once collected, the eDNA is stored in the TrEnD Lab as a snapshot of the species present in that environment at that time, otherwise known as biobanking, and can be used as a baseline data set for future analysis in the case of an incident/event resulting in significant changes in biodiversity.

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This article is part of #BestOfBMT (2018) campaign featuring the most interesting projects BMT was involved in throughout the year.

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