From field to lab

In partnership with Point Defiance Zoo, and with funding from the Dr. Holly Reed Conservation Fund, last year we set out to validate if eDNA could be a useful tool for monitoring the prey for Pacific Walrus. We geared up, went into the field, collected our samples, and enjoyed some sunsets–you can read more about that adventure HERE. Our work didn’t finish when we returned to land. With lab coats, safety goggles in place, and pipette in hand it was time to test our samples for eDNA of various clams–a walrus food favorite.

Instead of our usual ‘project wrap up blog’, through the hard work of an amazing ASLC Science Communication Fellow, Jessica McCord, we are excited to share this story with you in two short videos.

Conservation Science from fieldwork:

…to the Lab

Our results were very promising–we demonstrated that eDNA in samples of coastal water can be a useful supplement or comparable tool for determining the presence and absence of target organisms. Though increasingly used in the field and evidence that it can be a robust tool for conservation science, in many ways the tool of eDNA is still in the validation stages. There is still much that needs to be explored to understand the opportunities and constraints of using this technique across different species, habitats and conservation questions. Our study represents an important first step towards providing a better understanding of how eDNA may help us understand the prey resources available to walrus in Bristol Bay, and can enable future studies to better address the potential drivers of walrus movement, understand the impacts of changes to their habitat, and assess the resilience of walrus populations to climate change.

We want to thank Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium and the Dr. Holly Reed Conservation Fund for their partnership and for supporting this work. This pilot project laid the groundwork for exciting future explorations into the use of eDNA for marine conservation.

Written by: Dr. Amy Bishop

Video by: Jessica McCord, ASLC Science Communication Fellow 2019

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