Research grant awarded to continue development of DNA tools for monitoring fish in our lakes using only samples of water

Biologists at the University of Hull pioneering the development of environmental DNA (eDNA) tools for biodiversity monitoring have received a major funding boost.

Dr Bernd Hänfling and Dr Lori Lawson Handley, researchers in the Evolutionary Biology Group, have been awarded £56,000 from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency to continue developing eDNA tools that can detect what species of fish are found in lakes.

The grant follows on from their latest research funded by a £29,000 grant from the , which demonstrated for the first time that eDNA accurately reflects the biodiversity of fish in large lakes. The new project aims to use eDNA determine what proportions of fish are in the water and what the best and most efficient strategy is for collecting water samples are.

Dr Bernd Hänfling and Dr Lori Lawson Handley

Dr Bernd Hänfling and Dr Lori Lawson Handley

Current methods to assess what and how many fish are in lakes are costly, labour intensive and highly invasive, requiring teams to spend long periods at lakes to net species, which are killed in the process.

In comparison eDNA detects species from cell debris that fish leave behind in their environment.

Dr Lori Handley said, “Every cell of every organism contains DNA. DNA is released into the environment in a host of ways, such as from their skin, faeces, mucous, producing eggs, or when they die.”

The new tools developed at the University of Hull could help scientists monitoring lakes uncover what species of fish live in lakes and detect if any invasive species are present.

Dr Hänfling said, “Invasive species rank alongside climate change as one of the major drivers of global environmental change leading to biodiversity loss, costing the European economy up to €20 billion annually.”

The Evolutionary Biology Group represents a major research centre within the University of Hull, and is influential in the UK through its work as a founder member of the UK’s eDNA network.

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