My Current Research: Detecting River Herring Using the Water they Swim through

Research Focus (ABT):

River herring are an important migratory species that travel in and out of coastal bays and their associated rivers at different stages in their life cycle. These fish were once so abundant they would migrate inland up and down the coast of North America in billions. This massive migration was an important resource to humans tracing back thousands of years, additionally, these fish also provide numerous ecosystem services to riparian, estuarine, and ocean environments.

However, overfishing, habitat loss, and declining water quality have caused severe reductions in their populations to the point where they are no longer able to support large-scale fishing efforts. As an anadromous species, population monitoring is recommended on a per river basis but continuous monitoring of every river where these fish occur is unrealistic for management agencies with limited resources.

Therefore we employ a quicker, cheaper, and less labor-intensive methodology based on the premise that fish shed DNA in the form of scales, feces, and mucus into their environment, and that we can measure this environmental DNA (eDNA) in the water using highly sensitive molecular tools. Using a local population of river herring, we measured the amount of river herring eDNA present in water samples on a daily basis throughout the 2021 river herring spawning run. We compared our eDNA results to fish count data taken during the same season to evaluate the effectiveness of eDNA monitoring tools on river herring populations.

 

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