The primary objective of this project is to demonstrate the use of eDNA metabarcoding as a cost-effective, non-invasive management tool for surveying pollinator threatened/endangered species (TES) on military lands. Pollinator species have recently experienced drastic declines and, consequently, numerous pollinators have been federally listed, including many species found on military installations. Conflict between TES and humans often leads to training restrictions or limited use of property assets via regulatory drivers such as the Endangered Species Act. Traditional surveys for pollinators are time intensive and costly, often requiring species-specific expertise. eDNA, or the identification of species via the DNA shed into their environments, presents a promising, cost-effective alternative to traditional surveys. Here the project team will demonstrate the use of eDNA to identify pollinators at flowering plants on Department of Defense (DoD) lands. The demonstration takes a broad approach through inclusion of varied environmental conditions (temperate, tropical, desert) and pollinator taxa (vertebrate and arthropod) that occur on military lands throughout the U.S., thereby making the work broadly applicable to any DoD installation with interest in management/conservation of pollinator species.

Technology Description

eDNA is trace DNA left by organisms that can be harnessed from environmental samples without observation or direct capture of the organism itself. Over the past decade the utility of eDNA analysis to effectively document biodiversity has grown rapidly, and its efficacy has been demonstrated in freshwater, marine, subterranean, terrestrial, and airborne samples. Initially, single-species assays were the dominant mode of eDNA analysis. However, eDNA metabarcoding has ascended in recent years as a viable means of documenting entire communities in a variety of ecological contexts. Here the project team suggests the use of eDNA metabarcoding to identify pollinator communities that visit flowering plants based on presence of DNA on the flower surface.


Restrictions caused by TES and their critical habitat can have a detrimental impact on the military's ability to train. Consequently, the DoD spends considerable sums to monitor and manage TES on military lands. In most instances, this involves conventional surveying of species. These current approaches are expensive, often requiring seasonal personnel with taxon specific expertise, and limited to sites where regular human access is feasible. eDNA surveys for pollinator species could facilitate a more spatially complete survey effort, bypass the need for traditional surveys, and can be more cost-effective than current methods. eDNA would be valuable for any DoD installation where pollinator monitoring is part of the installation’s natural resource or TES management. The wide variety of environments (temperate, tropical, desert) and pollinator taxa (vertebrate and arthropod) included in this demonstration make this broadly applicable to the majority of ecosystems where DoD manages at-risk pollinator species.