Effective management of at-risk species on military lands is critical to avoid restrictions on military use of lands for training and testing, but detection of rare and elusive species in aquatic habitats presents a continuing challenge. Detection of aquatic organisms using environmental DNA (eDNA) has recently been demonstrated to be a highly efficient, cost-effective, non-invasive method for monitoring aquatic species. This method, in which DNA is extracted from water samples and analyzed to determine if a target species has been present, has been successfully used to detect amphibians, fish, snakes, aquatic mammals, insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and pathogens in a wide range of aquatic environments. With the growing number of successful applications of eDNA technology for addressing a variety of management concerns, interest in using eDNA is burgeoning, presenting an increasing need for guidance for incorporating eDNA into monitoring programs. Currently, no comprehensive source of information, guidelines, and training materials for learning about and applying eDNA technology exists.

The overall objective of this project is to create a web-based eDNA resource center targeted at Department of Defense (DoD) and other practitioners who are considering implementing eDNA techniques for monitoring aquatic species. Specific objectives are to: (1) compile existing resources into a single knowledge base that allows managers to quickly access information about eDNA technology; (2) create new, engaging content to communicate eDNA techniques, applications, and training tools in written, video, and audio formats; and (3) facilitate exchange of resources, technical advice, lessons learned, and other information to help promote the appropriate use of eDNA methods among DoD and other end users.

Technology Description

In the ESTCP project Environmental DNA as a Tool for Inventory and Monitoring of Aquatic Vertebrates (RC-201204), eDNA techniques were demonstrated at three DoD sites and draft eDNA guidelines, protocols, and demonstration results were developed. To make these tools accessible to a wider audience of practitioners and broaden the impact of the work, the results will be combined with the growing eDNA literature, a Legacy Resource Management Program-funded eDNA project on at-risk amphibians and reptiles, and other eDNA projects within and outside the project team.

This enhanced knowledge base will be initially hosted at Washington State University and used to build an online information center for transferring eDNA protocols, guidance, technological material, and other resources to end users in DoD, its partner organizations, and the broader natural resource community. The eDNA information center will act as a hub to update practitioners on emerging technological developments and exchange information, with particular attention to detecting and monitoring aquatic species on DoD installations.

A key component of the eDNA resource center will be a knowledge base that includes: (1) written and video overviews of eDNA technology and its application; (2) more detailed materials with technical details of the genetic, sampling, and analytical concepts and techniques underlying eDNA methods; (3) recordings and presentations from eDNA webinars; (4) a regularly updated library of eDNA publications, technical reports, case studies, media reports, and other sources of information; and (5) an updated list of Frequently Asked Questions to address common questions about eDNA methods.

A second component will consist of a suite of guidance materials, including: (1) general guidelines for deciding if, when, and how to use eDNA in monitoring programs; (2) field protocols for collecting eDNA water samples; (3) taxon-specific protocols that have been developed for ongoing and completed projects for collecting and analyzing eDNA samples; (4) lists of materials needed for eDNA field sampling; and (5) a series of training videos demonstrating field sampling techniques and explaining laboratory procedures for analyzing eDNA samples. The eDNA resource center will also host a discussion forum for practitioners to ask questions, share experiences, and offer and receive technical advice about implementing eDNA technology.

The resources supported on the online center will be presented at levels intended to fit differing degrees of informational needs. This innovative approach will enable natural resource managers to select the length, format, and level of detail of eDNA information that fits their management needs, time availability, and learning modes.


This project will make eDNA tools available and useful to DoD managers. This will be achieved by developing and serving, via an active web site, a knowledge base, guidelines, and user community to direct managers in developing eDNA-based monitoring programs for at-risk and invasive aquatic species.

The benefits of this eDNA information center are widespread, providing a valuable resource to managers across all four military services, all regions of the United States, and state and federal fish and wildlife agencies. To facilitate coordination and information exchange for military natural resource managers interested in eDNA, a section of the web site will be dedicated to DoD-specific research and monitoring, with summaries of DoD eDNA projects, a moderated forum specifically for DoD practitioners, and an updated list of species for which eDNA assays have been developed.

The online toolkit will be the first of its kind for eDNA, which will position DoD in a leadership role for transitioning eDNA technology to natural resource managers. The end benefit to military natural resource managers will be access to tools and resources for making informed decisions about if, when, and how to use eDNA methods in monitoring and management plans for at-risk and listed species, thus taking full advantage of a technology that has been demonstrated to detect aquatic species efficiently, reliably, and with minimal ecological impacts to sensitive species. (Anticipated Project Completion - 2017)