On June 10th, Old Rag Master Naturalists, including Judy and Alan Edmunds, along with members of Trout Unlimited, Friends of the Rappahannock and other volunteers worked with Shenandoah National Park's (SNP) Supervisory Fish Biologist, Evan Childress to collect the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of brook trout.
The purpose of this project was to gain a comprehensive understanding of brook trout population in the Shenandoah. This was done by collecting water samples from over 80 streams in the SNP. The process of collecting the samples was an all-day project!
Volunteers first picked up sample kits at one of the two testing stations in the SNP. Along with their kit, volunteers were given a site number, a data sheet to fill out and directions to the site. Some of the sites were a long hike into the park and took some tricky trekking to get to the exact spot on the stream that was listed on the site sheet! Once the longitude and latitude were confirmed and verified, following the collection protocol, the volunteers collected 2 liters of water from the site and filled out the data sheet. After hiking back to the car, the water was put on ice in coolers to keep the DNA from degrading on the drive back to the testing stations.
When volunteers returned the samples and data sheets, the park staff used special equipment to filter each sample of water. Each individual filter was then put in a vial to be sent to a lab that will use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify the DNA signal. This will enable them to detect any trout DNA present in the sample.
The results of the eDNA project will be long lasting. The information that was gathered will allow park biologists to not only understand the health of the streams and the distribution of brook trout in the park, but will also help park biologists make informed decisions about future conservation initiatives. Evan’s plan is to make an interactive map where people can see the results from the places we sampled and to give a virtual presentation talking about what we learned from the project.
The eDNA project will be wrapping up this fall, but Evan is already looking to get additional grants to drive more projects that will support healthy streams in the Shenandoah.
Stay tuned for more opportunities to help Evan in the future!
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