Environmental DNA metabarcoding and citizen science as a cost-effective and rapid tool for monitoring terrestrial mammalian species

Lavin, J 2022, Environmental DNA metabarcoding and citizen science as a cost-effective and rapid tool for monitoring terrestrial mammalian species , MSc by research thesis, University of Salford.

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Abstract

The use of environmental DNA (eDNA) has become increasingly important as a surveying technique for monitoring rare, elusive and/or invasive species. eDNA metabarcoding (which targets multiple species simultaneously) has been frequently used to monitor aquatic species but more recently, has been applied to detect semi-aquatic and terrestrial mammals. eDNA, with the help of citizen science, enables large, geographical areas to be sampled with minimal effort and is completely non-invasive, an important feature when monitoring species of conservation significance. The suitability of citizen science collated eDNA samples has not been fully tested to date. The Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT) have been working with citizen scientists to carryout eDNA sampling along two rivers (Colne and Blackwater) in Essex, in the southeast of England. In this study, we replicate the eDNA sampling from a previous study that was carried out in July 2019 by professionals. Here, eDNA samples were collected by the EWT volunteers between December 2019 and January 2020 and have been sent to Salford for eDNA metabarcoding analyses. With the focus on mammalian ecology along the Rivers Colne and Blackwater, we investigated patterns of species presence/absence, distribution, species richness and β-diversity between rivers and sampling periods. A t-test was performed to compare the mean proportion of human contamination per sample in both sampling seasons, resulting in similar levels of human contamination between professionals and trained volunteers collecting the samples, demonstrating the effectiveness of citizen science in this project. In total 21 individual mammalian species were detected in the winter sampling (20 - Colne, 19 – Blackwater) compared to 25 in the summer (23 – Colne, 12 – Blackwater). However, the overall mean species richness was higher in December versus July. This study demonstrates that citizen science can be used as an excellent source for sample collection for eDNA analysis to evaluate species diversity for a particular area. This can then be projected to areas larger in scale and make a huge contribution to the monitoring and conservation of species. The use of citizen science in these types of projects really gets the community involved, along with educating and spreading knowledge which is key to community-based conservation.

Item Type: Thesis (MSc by research)
Contributors: McDevitt, A (Supervisor)
Schools: Schools > School of Environment and Life Sciences
Depositing User: Jenna Lavin
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2022 11:57
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2022 02:31
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/62781

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