eDNA in the Blue
Environmental DNA (eDNA) is genetic material that is shed from macro-organisms. Recent years have seen the piloting of eDNA barcoding in British marine waters. This project looks to collect pilot data from Cornish coastal marine environments to describe the spatial behaviour of blue & porbeagle sharks and their main teleost prey.
The area of interest is the pelagic sub-tidal waters off of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (UK), shown in this image as the blue shaded area.
Samples of sea water will be collected in sterilised litre water bottles, before being filtered and processed using qPCR techniques.
qPCR, specific to eDNA, is the approach where specific species genomes are amplified and detected via bioinformatics from filtered samples of ocean water. Martin Genner at the University of Bristol has been instrucmental in helpign define the project protocol and facilitating the processing of samples.
To collect water samples form this vast study area (blue shaded region in image), I am working with local tour operatrs, and government entities, creating partnerships which facilitate the colleciton of samples at regular intervals throughout the year at consistent locations.
Proof of concept - can we confirm work done in Plymouth that these elasmobranch and teleost species can be detected via wate rbottle sampling and qPCR in the southwest UK marine environment?
What are the temporal trends in the relative abundance and spatial behaviour of blue sharks and porbeagles? and their associated teleost prey?
What oceanographic and bathymetric variables relate to these trends in abundance and spatial behaviour?
Further work will look to explore punctuated increases in detected abundances of these sharks and fish.
And concurrent work in this project is deploying and testing a novel method of eDNA sampling - the Metaprobe 2.0, not our creation but a collaborators (check it out here). We will be looking to cross-validate the Metaprobe 2.0 with BRUVs in the Isles of Scilly; and with water bottle sampling off of Cornwall.