SCCWRP member agencies to help inform development of national eDNA strategy

Posted October 27, 2023
Attendees at the 2nd National Workshop on Marine Environmental DNA, held in 2022 at SCCWRP, learn about field sampling methods for environmental DNA (eDNA). Following the meeting, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy convened a federal team to begin developing a national eDNA strategy – a recognition of the fact that monitoring programs across the nation need improved coordination to advance eDNA-based monitoring.

CTAG will host an all-day workshop next month to identify constraints and challenges associated with incorporating environmental DNA (eDNA) methods into aquatic monitoring programs nationwide – the latest in a series of focused, SCCWRP-facilitated investments over the past year to help inform development of a coordinated national eDNA-based monitoring strategy.

The insights from the upcoming CTAG eDNA workshop, scheduled for November 9, 2023, will be submitted to a White House-appointed federal team that is developing the national eDNA strategy over the next several months. The workshop also will help shape SCCWRP’s long-term research planning efforts around advancing the science of eDNA-based monitoring.

The development of a national strategy around eDNA-based monitoring follows more than a year of strategic investments by SCCWRP and other leading eDNA researchers and management agencies to help transition eDNA-based monitoring methods from pilot-scale studies to broadscale adoption by the end-user management community.

eDNA-based monitoring uses the DNA that organisms shed into their environment – known as environmental DNA – to monitor a broad range of organisms, often with greater speed, accuracy, and precision than traditional monitoring methods that rely on manual observation of organisms.

For the past decade, researchers and environmental management agencies across the nation have explored how to use eDNA-based methods as a cost-effective complement and/or alternative to traditional morphology-based monitoring methods. However, these agencies have worked largely in siloes to standardize eDNA sampling, processing and analytical protocols, making it difficult to build monitoring capacity, close knowledge gaps, and coordinate and harmonize eDNA policies across agencies.

In summer 2022, SCCWRP was asked to help bring this community together by hosting the 2nd National Workshop on Marine eDNA, a national conference that identified strategies and solutions for effectively transitioning eDNA methods to routine management adoption and use across the nation. A key outcome of this workshop was recognizing that monitoring programs across the nation would need improved coordination to advance eDNA-based monitoring.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), which gave the opening remarks at the 2022 national eDNA workshop, responded by convening a federal team charged with developing a national eDNA strategy, known officially as the National Marine and Great Lakes eDNA Strategy.

The November 9 CTAG eDNA workshop is expected to be attended by leading eDNA researchers from across the nation who are interested in gaining improved understanding of what the end-user management community needs to advance eDNA-based monitoring.

In recent years, California has emerged as a global leader in coordinating and standardizing eDNA monitoring programs statewide. In particular, the California Water Quality Monitoring Council’s Molecular Methods Workgroup, led by SCCWRP’s Dr. Susanna Theroux, has helped demonstrate how improved coordination among agencies can help more expeditiously transition eDNA monitoring methods into routine adoption and use.

The federal eDNA strategy team is inviting public comment through November 30, 2023 to gather perspectives and insights prior to developing the national strategy. These comments are welcome to be submitted through a federal Request for Information (RFI) process.

Once the comment period closes, the federal team convened by OSTP will begin writing the national strategy. The strategy is expected to be unveiled as part of the 3rd National Workshop on Marine eDNA, scheduled for June 3-5, 2024 in Washington, D.C. 

Following the strategy’s release, SCCWRP is expected to play a leading role in helping to align the national strategy with California’s ongoing efforts to standardize and build capacity around eDNA monitoring methods.

For more information, contact Dr. Susanna Theroux.

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