We are always working to develop new monitoring capabilities and services. We welcome collaboration on these R&D projects, particularly if you can provide some fresh tissue samples for the target taxa or help us obtain field samples from sites where they are known to occur.
Key areas of ongoing work include:
- eDNA surveys for crustaceans, including native and non-native crayfish.
Although crayfish live in the water all year round, they do not always produce useful amounts of DNA because it is contained within the thick exoskeleton. Crayfish are most readily detected with eDNA when they are breeding and growing (i.e. moulting) and at other times of year may not be detectable at all. The timing of sampling is therefore critical. qPCR assays have been described for various continental species of crayfish but the white-clawed crayfish that is protected in the UK encompasses several genetically distinct lineages, which complicates the development of a species-specific assay. We are taking a multi-species approach to monitoring crayfish, which should reduce the chances of false negative and false positive detections.
- eDNA surveys for freshwater mussels, including freshwater pearl mussel, zebra mussels, and quagga mussels.
Mussels give off plenty of DNA for reliable detection. We are currently working on a large project to explore the range of detectability of freshwater pearl mussels (Margaritifera margaritifera) in rivers in western England. We are also ready to field test assays for zebra and quagga mussels, which are key INNS in England.
- eDNA surveys for aquatic invertebrates
These can be surveyed using DNA metabarcoding if you collect the organisms using kick sampling or sweep netting, but direct survey from eDNA in water samples remains a challenge. This is partly because exoskeletons greatly reduce the amount of DNA shed into the environment by many taxa, and partly because of a predominance of zooplankton species. We are continuing to innovate in sampling and assay design to try to overcome these issues.
If you are working on projects that you think could benefit from an eDNA approach to monitoring these groups, please do get in touch to discuss ways in which we could collaborate.