eDNA Biodiversity

Biodiversity surveys are essential for resource management, detection of invasive species and detection of rare or endangered species. These surveys are dependent on the survey techniques, which need to be continuously refined to obtain the best results. Traditional survey techniques often involve visual surveys based on morphological characteristics and counting of individuals of the field, which cannot be standardized and are inefficient.

The discovery of eDNA bar-coding has revolutionized surveying. DNA bar-coding refers to taxonomic identification of species based on single specimen sequencing of DNA bar-code gene (Hebert et al., 2003). It is a new highly sensitive technique involving capturing DNA from an environmental sample without isolating any target organisms first. This allows one to obtain representative populations from the sampling sites without the requirement of identifying target organisms.

This methodology is based on the premise that all organisms release DNA into the surrounding environment. The total DNA is extracted from the collected sample and run against a DNA database with the help of specific primers. Based on the primer sets, it allows one to either do a broad survey of different genera or narrow the search down to species level.

Our project would allow us to survey the biodiversity at Grande Island, Goa, where we could obtain data on prevalence and migration behavior of different species of fish, marine mammals, etc. in the area. It would also allow us to track elusive marine species such as the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) and the fin-less porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides).

This project is expected to be carried out in association with the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa. We are still in the process of applying for funding for this project, so if you have any leads for funding, please contact us!