FSG tests the ability of environmental DNA (eDNA) to detect overlooked fish species

PI: Michelle Gaither, University of Central Florida

Recap: Researchers examined whether eDNA reveals fish species commonly missed during traditional seine net surveys, offering an additional tool for fishery monitoring.

Relevance: The Indian River Lagoon is one of the most biodiverse estuaries in the U.S., providing habitat to over 400 fish species. FWC conducts monthly surveys of fish abundance in the lagoon using seine nets. These surveys provide the basis for resource management and conservation decisions. However, the nets often fail to capture many key species. Environmental DNA (eDNA) – genetic material animals passively shed into the water – is a new, promising way to monitor fish species.

Response: Florida Sea Grant scientists created a quick, cost-effective eDNA toolkit to complement FWC’s traditional survey techniques. They partnered with FWC to conduct fish surveys in the Indian River Lagoon, collecting water samples at multiple sites during fall and spring. Using Sea Grant-generated protocols, scientists are developing genetic libraries of fish species. eDNA from water samples can be compared against these libraries to determine which fish species are present in a given region.

Results: This work confirms that eDNA techniques can detect fish species missed by traditional survey methods and suggests that eDNA offers scientists an additional tool to help capture a more complete picture of fish diversity.

Partners: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission