Developing the eDNA toolkit to meet policy challenges

Theme: Evolution & Adaptation

Primary Supervisor:

David Bass

Life Sciences Department, NHM

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Secondary Supervisor:

Mark Brown

School of Biological Sciences, RHUL

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Project Description:

Environmental DNA sequencing methods provide a powerful toolkit for environmental assessment, detecting rare and elusive lineages (e.g. parasites, invasives, endangered species), and community analysis.

These methods are increasingly used for diversity studies, ecological comparisons, and conservation, but their potential application in monitoring schemes, policy-related studies, and industry is huge and largely untapped .This project would develop and assess the utility of eDNA methods for three types of investigation of increasing relevance to policy development and industrial applications:

1) detection and quantification of invasive species (metazoan, algal, and microbial),

2) ecosystem complexity and ‘health’ in Marine Conservation Zones

3) detection of emerging parasite lineages in farmed and wild capture fisheries.

The work will involve collecting and characterising environmental and organismal samples by conducting fieldwork followed by molecular biology (including targeting specific lineages and next generation sequencing) and bioinformatic analyses in order to calibrate and optimise molecular approaches for these policy challenges.

Policy Impact of Research:

The eDNA toolkit has significant potential for enhancing and/or replacing more laborious and possibly less informative methods in conservation, monitoring, and policy but this potential remains largely unexplored.

The student will use real-life case studies to provide proof-of-concept leading to high profile publications and new research avenues.

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