The Environmental Protection Agency has a new environmental DNA community science program which is being actively used by restoration and conservation groups, iwi and schools in Thames Coromandel to identify and monitor species in and around waterways.
When creatures move through the environment, they leave behind traces of DNA. By taking water samples, this DNA can be collected and sequenced to reveal all the fish, birds, insects, plants and animals present in the local ecosystem.
Community groups take water samples from rivers, lakes, estuaries, and wetlands using special kits that are simple and easy to use. The samples are sent to a lab for DNA sequencing and the species present are then identified.
This is a wonderful example of citizen science in action. The data collected not only helps local groups better understand their local ecology, but also adds to the Waikato Regional Council’s ecological database as well. It’s a win-win.
Ric Balfour, the local coordinator of The Landcare Trust has worked closely with local landowners and restoration groups to encourage eDNA stream monitoring. Ric has also been doing some great work with school students who have taken samples from local streams. One study in Thames has shown that some native fish are absent. This has led to a feasibility study with the regional council to see whether fish passages can be installed.
The data gathered can be added to an interactive map that shows the biodiversity in Thames Coromandel and around the country.
The Landcare Trust also has an interactive map showing the catchment and other restoration and conservation groups in Thames Coromandel and Hauraki should you wish to get involved.
Denis Tegg — Thames Coromandel representative on Waikato Regional Council