Advancing biomonitoring eDNA practices. The case of PCR inhibition and implications on eDNA detections

Conventional biomonitoring methods based on capture and observations can be difficult, destructive of habitat, stressful for the organisms, inefficient, and expensive. Living organisms shed DNA into the environment (eDNA) and this signal can be detected using molecular methods. eDNA allows species detection without physical observation or capture. The non-invasive nature of eDNA is essential for revealing elusive and invasive species. Despite the advantages and growing applications of eDNA for biomonitoring, there are still uncertainties to be addressed before its acquisition by industry and regulators acceptance. Our project aims to compare conventional biomonitoring methods with eDNA to detect target species in both lentic and lotic ecosystems. We will approach PCR inhibition, a recurrent issue on environmental samples than can generate false positive results. We will explore alternatives to identify, assess and overcome inhibition in eDNA surveys. With a better understanding of the influence of PCR inhibition on eDNA detection sensitivity and efficiency, this project will advance the accuracy of eDNA in biomonitoring programs. Performing accurate molecular tests on environmental samples, rather than deploying time-consuming and labour-intensive methods, is valuable to the environmental industry to complement conventional approaches or overcome their limitations, overall improving environmental assessment and management decisions.

Intern: 
Tzitziki Loeza Quintana
Faculty Supervisor: 
Robert Hanner
Province: 
Ontario
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