Environmental DNA (eDNA) is DNA found in the environment. This can be in the form of scats, saliva left on twigs, or in this case water. Amphibians leave DNA in their environment in several ways such as shedding skin cells or defecating. We use a pump to force water from a wetland through a membrane. The membrane is later analyzed in the lab to see which species left their DNA in the wetland (and then we can tell which species lives in the wetland). Because this is a new technique, we don't yet know how sensitive it is. This summer we are figuring out how many and how large of samples need to be collected to detect all of the amphibian species in a wetland. MBI partners Dr. Caren Goldberg (University of Idaho), Dr. Sam Cushman (US Forest Service), and Michael Lucid (IDFG) are working together to develop the protocols MBI will use to search for rare amphibians in summer 2013.
Study lake in the Idaho Selkirk Mountains.
IDFG wildlife technician Brad Hartshorn collects water sample prior to dip-netting lake.
IDFG wildlife technicians Melissa Boehmer and Brad Hartshorn dip-net for amphibians.
Long-toed salamanders (Ambystoma macrodactylum), western toads (Bufo boreas), and spotted frogs (Rana luteiventris) are some of the amphibians found during lake surveys.
We found a colony of sundew plants during one of our amphibian surveys. This carnivorous plant lives in wet bogs and fens in Idaho. Look closely and you can see a small insect that this plant is making a meal out of.