World Wetlands Day: Wetlands and Water

Post provided by Chloe Robinson

World Wetlands Day 2021 shines a spotlight on wetlands as a source of freshwater and encourages actions to restore them and stop their loss. Credit: Ramsar.org.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that healthy wetland systems are linked with freshwater quality. Wetlands form vital habitats for global biodiversity, help combat climate change through storage of carbon and offer defenses against flooding. Freshwater resources, including wetlands, are under increasing pressure from over-abstraction, pollution and habitat destruction among other threats, which is directly contributing to the current global freshwater crisis that threatens people and our planet.

February 2nd each year is World Wetlands Day, which aims to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands. This year, the 2021 campaign highlights the contribution of wetlands to the quantity and quality of freshwater on our planet. Water and wetlands are connected in an inseparable co-existence that is vital to life, our well-being, and the health of our planet. In this blog post, Associate Editor Chloe Robinson, will explore why wetlands are so important and the new DNA-based methods being used to monitor wetland health.

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Detecting Diatoms through Kick-net DNA Metabarcoding

Post provided by Dr. Chloe Robinson

Diatoms may be the only organisms to live in houses made of glass, but some species of diatom are far from fragile. Certain groups of diatoms are highly tolerant of poorer water quality and therefore their presence can be diagnostic for freshwater health estimates. A recent study, featuring MEE Associate Editor, Chloe Robinson, investigated whether communities of freshwater diatoms can be collected via kick-net methodology, which is an approach currently used for collecting benthic macroinvertebrates. In this post, Chloe highlights how applying previously optimised freshwater methods can result in a more holistic understanding of freshwater health.

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10th Anniversary Volume 7: eDNA Editor’s Choice

To celebrate our 10th Anniversary, we are highlighting a key article from each of our volumes. For Volume 7 we selected The ecologist’s field guide to sequence‐based identification of biodiversity’ by Creer et al. (2016).

In this post, two of our Associate Editors with expertise in eDNA, Lynsey Harper and Chloe Robinson, select their favourite MEE papers in this field.

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10th Anniversary Volume 7: The ecologist’s field guide to sequence‐based identification of biodiversity

Post provided by Si Creer, Kristy Deiner, Serita Frey and Holly Bik

To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the launch of Methods in Ecology and Evolution, we are highlighting an article from each volume to feature in the Methods.blog. For Volume 7, we have selected ‘The ecologist’s field guide to sequence‐based identification of biodiversity’ by Creer et al. (2016).

In this post, the authors share their motivation behind the paper and discuss advances in sequencebased identification of biodiversity.

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Methods for Ocean Conservation: World Ocean’s Day 2020

Post provided by Chloe Robinson

 

Whether you refer to them as the ‘briny deep’, the ‘seven seas’ or ‘Davy Jones’ locker’, the world’s oceans play a huge part in all of our lives. Consisting of 70% of the earth’s surface, oceans driving global weather patterns, through regulating a conveyor belt of heat from the equator to the poles. Oceans are also teeming with life, from single-celled organisms to large apex predators, such as the killer whale (Orcinus orca).

Male killer whale exhaling. Photo credit: Chloe Robinson/Sea Watch Foundation.

As with every other ecosystem on earth, the world’s oceans and the marine life they provide a home to, are under increasing pressure from human-related activities. At the 1992 Earth Summit, Canada proposed the concept of a World Ocean Day as a day to celebrate our oceans and to raise awareness about the crucial role the ocean plays in our lives and the important ways people can help protect it. Since 2002, the Ocean Project has been coordinating and promoting of World Ocean Day.

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A Celebration of World Rivers Day

Post provided by Alfred Burian, Antonia Ford and Quentin Mauvisseau

Celebrating our river ecosystems world-wide on the 22nd of September.

Celebrating our river ecosystems world-wide on the 22nd of September. ©Bob Wick, BLM.

It’s the 22nd of September and that means it’s this year’s UN World Rivers Day! In over 60 countries around the globe events are going on today to bring attention to the many values of our waterways. And we, the Aquatic Ecology Special Interest Group of the BES, are joining in with the celebrations! We’re highlighting recent methodological advancements that will help us to manage and conserve our rivers in the future. So let’s get started…

Multiple Stressors and Molecular Tools

Today, human activities across the world are impacting rivers to varying degrees. As scientists, we frequently see the interaction of multiple different stressors such as flow regulations, pollution or climate change affecting our rivers. The combined impact of stressors like these may be worse than any of their individual impacts. To understand and manage the effect of them, we need cost-effective and reliable analytical tools that can capture site-specific and ecosystem-wide effects.

Recent methodological advances that will help us to achieve these goals often rely on the application of new or improved molecular tools. Emerging techniques include environmental DNA (eDNA) based applications to monitor endangered and invasive species as well as stable isotope ecology, which provides us with new insights into animal diets and energy flows through aquatic food webs. We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce some of the novel developments in both of these exciting fields. Continue reading

New eDNA Programme Makes Conservation Research Faster and More Efficient

Below is a press release about the Methods in Ecology and Evolution article ‘Anacapa Toolkit: An environmental DNA toolkit for processing multilocus metabarcode datasets‘ taken from UCLA.

It’s estimated that a person sheds between 30,000 to 40,000 skin cells per day. These cells and their associated DNA leave genetic traces of ourselves in showers, dust — pretty much everywhere we go.

Other organisms shed cells, too, leaving traces throughout their habitats. This leftover genetic material is known as environmental DNA, or eDNA. Research using eDNA began about a decade ago, but was largely limited to a small cadre of biologists who were also experts in computers and big data. However, a new tool from UCLA could be about to make the field accessible and useful to many more scientists.

A team of UCLA researchers recently launched the Anacapa Toolkit — open-source software that makes eDNA research easier, allowing researchers to detect a broad range of species quickly and producing sortable results that are simple to understand. Continue reading

The Self-Preserving eDNA Filter: How It Works and Why You Should Use It

Researchers at Washington State University and Smith-Root recently invented an environmental DNA (eDNA) filter housing that automatically preserves captured eDNA by desiccation. This eliminates the need for filter handling in the field and/or liquid DNA preservatives. The new material is also biodegradable, helping to reduce long-lasting plastic waste associated with eDNA sampling.

This video explains their new innovation in the field of eDNA sampling technology:

To find out more about the self-preserving eDNA filter, read the full, Open Access Methods in Ecology and Evolution article ‘A self‐preserving, partially biodegradable eDNA filter
(No Subscription Required).

If you’re using interesting new field techniques like this, why not submit a Practical Tools manuscript about them? You can find out more about Practical Tools manuscripts here.

Making a Self-Preserving eDNA Filter

Below is a press release about the Methods in Ecology and Evolution article ‘A self‐preserving, partially biodegradable eDNA filter‘ taken from the Smith-Root.

A new self-preserving filter housing automatically preserves eDNA, while reducing the risk of contamination, and creating less plastic waste.

Researcher collecting an eDNA sample using the self-preserving filter housing.

In 2015 the inventor of the Keurig disposable coffee cartridge (K-Cups) told reporters that sometimes he regrets ever inventing the technology. The single-use design simply produces too much non-recyclable trash. Well, that very same problem is what ultimately led to the creation of a self-preserving filter for environmental DNA (eDNA); a recently reported Practical Tool in Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

eDNA scientists rely on single-use sampling equipment because eDNA surveys are highly sensitive to potential contamination. “We started out simply looking for biodegradable plastics that could be molded into a filter housing, with the objective of reducing plastic waste.” says Dr. Austen Thomas who led the team of researchers and engineers who invented the Smith-Root eDNA Sampler. “That’s when we realized that some of the biodegradable compounds function by being highly hydrophilic.” Continue reading