Using eDNA to test for invasive species

CCT has jumped at an exciting opportunity to have environmental DNA (eDNA) samples collected from around a selection of Chagos Archipelago islands to see if invasive species DNA can be detected from seawater.

The results could help confirm the presence/absence of mice and cats from certain islands and inform a robust monitoring programme once invasive species have been removed through our Healthy Islands, Healthy Reefs programme.

Imperial College London PhD student, Rosie Dowell, is developing eDNA techniques as a marine biodiversity monitoring tool on coral reefs in the Indian Ocean and is currently on expedition in the archipelago. Her research is in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London's Institute of Zoology and forms part of the Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet Doctoral Training Program. This work is funded by the National Environmental Research Council, the Bertarelli Foundation and CASE partner NatureMetrics.

CCT has been working with NatureMetrics to investigate the possibility of using eDNA to determine if it could/couldn't be used as a monitoring tool post-rat eradication to detect re-invasion and also to monitor for biodiversity increases. 

The opportunity to obtain test samples from the Peros Banhos and Salomon Atolls and the Great Chagos Bank contributes to Phase 2 of Healthy Islands, Healthy Reefs. In this research and development phase we have identified investigating new technologies as one area to invest in. Therefore, this fits in with our funding priorities and will give us some results earlier than expected.

It is hoped we’ll have a full analysis of the eDNA sample results later in the year which will determine the next steps in this exciting project.

Many thanks go to Imperial College London and NatureMetrics for inviting us to be part of this project.


Photo credits NatureMetrics