Scientists at Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service have demonstrated that DNA extracted from water samples from rivers across Oregon and Northern California can be used to estimate genetic diversity of Pacific salmon and trout.
The findings, just published in the journal Molecular Ecology, have important implications for conservation and management of these species, which are threatened by human activities, including those exacerbating climate change.
“There has been a dearth of this kind of data across the Northwest,” said Kevin Weitemier, a postdoctoral fellow at Oregon State and lead author of the paper. “This allows us to get a quick snapshot of multiple populations and species all at once.”
In addition to demonstrating that environmental DNA, or eDNA, can be used to measure genetic diversity, the researchers also made unexpected discoveries about the history of these species, including a connection that links watersheds in northern and southern Oregon.