Using environmental DNA to detect the presence of Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)
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Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) has been designated as threatened or endangered throughout a large portion of its range largely due to destruction and degradation of wetland and terrestrial habitat. More precise knowledge of locations where Blanding’s turtles are found would greatly aid efforts to protect this species. Unfortunately, Blanding’s turtles can be difficult to observe or trap, making detection difficult. Instead, environmental DNA (eDNA) collected from an aquatic habitat may be utilized as a cost and time-effective alternative to determine whether E. blandingii have recently occupied a given locale. For this study, we designed species-specific primers to amplify a 219 bp segment of the cytochrome-b gene. Following water filtration and eDNA extraction from Millipore filters, the extracts were amplified using the specifically designed primers. The PCR products were then run on a 1% agarose gel to infer the presence or absence of E. blandingii based on corresponding gel results. Our preliminary results have demonstrated that the primers are species-specific to E. blandingii and will amplify E. blandingii DNA from a 2-3 L water sample from water used to house this species in captivity. Future research will focus on obtaining positive results from field sites where E. blandingii is known to occur and will test the utility of this method at historic E. blandingii sites as well as sites where the current presence/absence status of E. blandingii is unknown. Furthermore, we plan to include a relative cost analysis, with respect to both time and money, comparing traditional survey methods to eDNA methods.