The lab going up in Boise, Idaho, will be part of a new, larger U.S. Geological Survey building. And it would test environmental DNA, or eDNA, from around the nation. That is, instead of trying to find an invasive animal, like a single mussel or fish in a lake, scientists could just sample water to test for DNA of certain species.
In waterways in our region, eDNA technology could help monitor for quagga and zebra mussels that can clog water intakes, harm native species and damage boat engines.
Leaders, lawmakers and scientists spoke at the groundbreaking for the new building on Tuesday, including Tim Petty, the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science. He gave an example of how eDNA works.
“When you rub, a hair falls off or a cell will even fall off. The same thing with any other species, especially in the river,” he said.
The genetic material in waterways can show what used to be there, what’s in there now, and whether a certain population is increasing or decreasing. And that can also help keep track of endangered species and whether population-boosting efforts are working.
Either way, scientists can use the information to take actions to keep waterways healthy.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.