How robust is species detection using environmental DNA?

Presented by ANU College of Health & Medicine

Answers to some of the most important questions in wildlife science, conservation and management require reliable data on species’ presence, abundance, and distribution. DNA, extracted from hair, faeces, and other environmental sources (e.g. soil, water) is a valuable supply of this information that does not require handling, capturing, or even observing individual animals. DNA-based detection methods promise a number of advances over traditional detection methods, based on visual identification of specimens using diagnostic morphological criteria. It is now widely considered that DNA-based methods of environmental monitoring can be undertaken with relatively high throughput and at low cost per sample, delivering substantial sensitivity benefits over traditional methods. However, many studies are undertaken without parallel development of robust quantitative frameworks that allow the probability of detection to be considered in order to derive clearly interpretable outcomes.
Our research team has been developing eDNA methods for direct application for practitioners, beyond being just a research tool. I will discuss our research undertaken within the Invasive Species CRC on the application of eDNA methods for the detection of aquatic invasive species, and how robust frameworks are critical for defensible decision-making.

Dr Dianne Gleeson (PhD) - Dianne is a wildlife geneticist, with 18yrs of research experience in the application of DNA technologies for biodiversity conservation outcomes. Her career focus has been facilitating the translation of fundamental research into accessible services for end-users such as conservation management agencies, and environmental regulatory authorities, particularly during her 16 years at Landcare Research in New Zealand. She is currently based at the Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra and leads a CRC funded project on eDNA technologies for invasive species detection and provides a range of fee-for-service wildlife genetic applications.

12.30pm–1.30pm with light lunch commencing 12.00pm