Environmental DNA (eDNA) detection probability is influenced by seasonal activity of organisms

Lesley S. De Souza, James C. Godwin, Mark A. Renshaw, Eric Larson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Environmental DNA (eDNA) holds great promise for conservation applications like the monitoring of invasive or imperiled species, yet this emerging technique requires ongoing testing in order to determine the contexts over which it is effective. For example, little research to date has evaluated how seasonality of organism behavior or activity may influence detection probability of eDNA. We applied eDNA to survey for two highly imperiled species endemic to the upper Black Warrior River basin in Alabama, US: the Black Warrior Waterdog (Necturus alabamensis) and the Flattened Musk Turtle (Sternotherus depressus). Importantly, these species have contrasting patterns of seasonal activity, with N. alabamensis more active in the cool season (October-April) and S. depressus more active in the warm season (May-September). We surveyed sites historically occupied by these species across cool and warm seasons over two years with replicated eDNA water samples, which were analyzed in the laboratory using species-specific quantitative PCR (qPCR) assays. We then used occupancy estimation with detection probability modeling to evaluate both the effects of landscape attributes on organism presence and season of sampling on detection probability of eDNA. Importantly, we found that season strongly affected eDNA detection probability for both species, with N. alabamensis having higher eDNA detection probabilities during the cool season and S. depressus have higher eDNA detection probabilities during the warm season. These results illustrate the influence of organismal behavior or activity on eDNA detection in the environment and identify an important role for basic natural history in designing eDNA monitoring programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0165273
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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