Graduate Research School Available Projects Environmental DNA for the management of aquatic biodiversity of northern Australia

Environmental DNA for the management of aquatic biodiversity of northern Australia

Title of Project

Environmental DNA for the management of aquatic biodiversity of northern Australia


Prof Damien Burrows, A/Prof Jan Strugnell

College or Research Centre

College of Science & Engineering

Summary of Project

To appropriately manage the aquatic biodiversity of northern Australia, especially in the face of pressure for development of water resources, there is a requirement to have a greater understanding of faunal distribution, abundance and occurrence patterns, especially for key species of high conservation status or other special interest (e.g. exotics species, cryptic species). There is a need for an approach that can rapidly increase data on the occurrence of aquatic fauna to more effectively manage their populations and to further our understanding of key drivers of population vulnerability/resilience. Being able to conduct more frequent and widespread survey/sampling/monitoring of key aquatic species of importance in northern Australia would greatly assist decisions around appropriate development of northern resources and the current discourse about northern development. This project will take advantage of the rapidly growing field of eDNA. Organisms constantly shed DNA into their environment (eDNA) and this can be utilised to determine their presence in place of traditional sampling methods. eDNA field sampling can involve as little as collecting water samples and subsequent laboratory analyses. Consequently, the method offers the potential for research and monitoring programs to be conducted rapidly, at lower cost, across a large array of locations, and to involve the participation of non-specialists. This PhD project will develop and employ eDNA technology for species of conservation and/or management significance. The project can be shaped to the students interests, but may focus on: • Development and validation of probes for species of conservation and/or management importance in Northern Australia. • Development of a metabarcoding approach to target a range of species of interest. • Investigation of the relationship between water quality parameters, sampling procedures, sample transport time and DNA degradation and detection rates.

Key Words

eDNA; Northern Australia; genetics; field work; metabarcoding; conservation

Would suit an applicant who

has an interest in conservation, genetics, field work, management

Updated: 08 Apr 2020