eDNA laboratory study. Credit: Laurel Zaima

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the hereditary material in an organism. The chemical structure of DNA is the same for all organisms, but the DNA building blocks, or base pair, that provide genetic diversity between species, populations, and individuals differ. Environmental DNA (eDNA) is an organism’s DNA that can be found in the environment through cellular material shedding into the aquatic or terrestrial environment. eDNA sources include skin, hair, or scales; the secretment of feces, mucus, and gametes; and carcasses of an organism. Aquatic eDNA is diluted and disseminated by hydrological processes and only lasts about 7-12 days depending on the environmental conditions.

eDNA sampling and monitoring is an emerging technique that scientists are using to gain a greater understanding of the local fish biodiversity and population dynamics in the Hudson. We are excited to be involved with the development and early testing of this emerging technique. eDNA will allow us to better identify species that are moving through the system. As it develops, we hope the sampling may be used in the identification of small, rare, secretive, emerging invasive, or other species that are difficult to detect. 

In collaboration with the Hudson River Park, Hudson River Estuary’s Norrie Point Environmental Center, Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River at Beczak, we are trying identify the range and key habitat locations for iconic and migratory Hudson River estuary species such as the American eel, striped bass, shortnose sturgeon, and Atlantic sturgeon for the eDNA research project. 

Learn more: eDNA Tells New Stories About HRPK’s Estuarine Sanctuary