Biologists measure Hiawatha fish populations with eDNA

Nov 26, 2019

GLADSTONE, MI--   The Hiawatha National Forest is using environmental DNA technology to help manage its aquatic environments. 

US Forest Service fisheries biologist Jason Krebill inserts a filter cartridge into the sample pole. The filter captures eDNA particles from the water being sampled.
Credit U.S. Forest Service

Eric Miltz-Miller is a Biological Science Technician on Hiawatha’s Fisheries team. He says eDNA revolutionizes aquatic sampling by looking for genetic material in the water rather than trying to find individuals of a species. As fish and other living organisms move in water they shed genetic material found in body cells, like those in scales. The bits of DNA accumulate in the environment, so a water sample from a stream may contain the DNA from any species that has been in the water upstream.

The Forest Service sampled several streams with known levels of brook trout abundance this fall as a first step in the project. The main project begins in the spring, when biologists sample Hiawatha for lake sturgeon. The fish is classified as threatened in Michigan.