Studying waterbird assemblages using environmental DNA

    Project: Research

    Project Details


    Australia’s major wetland basins have suffered widespread degradation due to water diversion and land use changes, coinciding with drastic declines in waterbird numbers over the past few decades. Ongoing monitoring of waterbird populations in the face of environmental change can be supported by genetic data, providing insight into historical, contemporary and future genetic connectivity across the landscape. Additionally, with the recent growth in environmental DNA research (eDNA), studying waterbird assemblages from water samples can provide wetland managers with a non-invasive tool to monitor wetland health. This 3-year project aims to assess the impacts of current and future environmental scenarios on genetic connectivity networks of representative wetland bird species and examine the utility of eDNA in studying waterbird assemblages and detecting cryptic species. The first year of the project aims to perform next-generation sequencing on non-invasively obtained Australian wood duck feather samples, perform landscape genetic simulations as part of a joint-study, update online genetic databases with data for Australia’s rare and cryptic waterbirds to maximise their detection in eDNA studies, and finally set up a preliminary eDNA study to identify an appropriate sampling strategy. The genetic dataset assembled for the Australian wood duck will be used, along with additional genetic data from other waterbird species, to perform more complex network analyses and forward simulations in the following two years. The preliminary eDNA results will guide more in-depth eDNA research on Australia’s waterbirds. Together, the outcomes of this PhD project will be used to inform the ongoing management of Australian waterbird populations and wetland health.
    Effective start/end date1/06/201/08/22