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Wednesday, January 30 • 10:50am - 11:00am
(WILDLIFE: LIGHTNING TALK) Using Environmental DNA to Determine Rail Occupancy and Track Migration

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AUTHORS: Anastasia Rahlin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Mark Davis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Matthew Niemiller, University of Alabama in Huntsville

ABSTRACT: Wetland fragments in Illinois support over 100 bird species, 15 of which are state threatened and endangered. Wetland birds are of particular concern under the Illinois State Wildlife Action Plan due to the lack of information about their population sizes and distributions. Traditional playback methods fall short in elucidating cryptic wetland bird occupancy due to small body sizes, infrequent vocalizations, and unique habitat requirements. In this study, we investigated whether environmental DNA (eDNA) methods could be used to detect multiple rail species, and also hypothesized that taking environmental DNA samples over time would allow us to temporally track rail migration. We collected and filtered water samples from four sites from northern Illinois. We collected and purified DNA from filters using a Qiagen DNeasy kit, and quantified extracts on a Qubit 3.0 fluorometer. We amplified a short fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 locus using newly designed degenerate bird primers. We positively detected eDNA in our samples, with Qubit concentrations ranging from 1.30 ng/ml to 80.3 ng/ml. As expected, negative control samples collected in the field yielded no eDNA. Degenerate primers positively detected GBHE and SORA DNA extracted from liver controls, with band fragment sizes of approximately 125 base pairs. Degenerate primers also yielded multiple ~125 bp bands, showing strong evidence for wetland bird DNA detection from eDNA samples. Samples were sequenced on a MiSeq using degenerate bird and vertebrate primers. We focused on analyzing Illumina sequencing data for four species: Sora, King Rail, Virginia Rail, and Least Bittern. Our analyses yielded positive detections for multiple rail species. Least Bitterns were not detected. Ongoing work focuses on adding sampling sites in northern Illinois, increasing sampling duration, and taking soil eDNA samples.

Wednesday January 30, 2019 10:50am - 11:00am

Attendees (2)