Fishing for genes | 1/21/2019 | Staff
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Just as steelhead trout migrate from saltwater to freshwater and back, MBARI's Environmental Sample Processors (ESPs)—first developed for research in the ocean—have been getting a lot of use in freshwater over the last five years.

This spring, the ESP team installed an instrument to collect samples of "environmental DNA" from a coastal creek just north of Monterey Bay. Researchers will use these samples to track populations of threatened steelhead trout, endangered coho salmon, and invasive species in the creek.

Process - Monitoring - Fisheries - Management

In the process, they could help revolutionize environmental monitoring and fisheries management nationwide.

The research is a joint project of MBARI and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, with funding from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations as part of their newly launched Environmental Engagement, Stewardship & Solutions program. The work is being carried out in collaboration with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is part of MBARI's continuing effort to provide scientific data with direct application for ocean and wildlife conservation.

DNA - EDNA - Forensics - Court - Cases

Environmental DNA (eDNA) is similar to the forensics used in criminal court cases. But instead of trying to find DNA in bits of hair or saliva at a crime scene, eDNA researchers can simply collect samples of water. These water samples will contain tiny particles of skin, mucus, waste, or other organic matter from the animals that live in the water. Researchers filter the water to concentrate these particles, extract the DNA, and then sequence it. By doing this, researchers can identify what kinds of animals live in the water and, in some cases, how abundant their populations are.

It is possible to collect water samples for eDNA analysis just by dipping a sterile container into a body of water. But MBARI's ESP collects and processes water samples automatically, as often as once an hour. This allows researchers to study how fish populations in...
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