A Citizen Science Environmental DNA (eDNA) Coastal Species Characterization Program at Kua o ka Lā New Century Public Charter School in Hilo, Milolii, and Puna
Oceanic Institute of Hawai‘i Pacific University (OI) announces a $25,000 grant award from the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Hawaii STEM Learning Partnership for a one year program. The funding will be used to conduct an environmental DNA (eDNA) citizen science program with Kua o ka Lā (KOKL) New Century Public Charter School in Hilo, Milolii, and Puna on the Island of Hawaii. Through the program the students and teachers of KOKL will learn about emerging technology where eDNA and high-throughput sequencing is used to detect species in aquatic environments using the DNA they leave behind via their waste, mucous, skin, and/or other cells.
Usually assessments of coastal organisms in Hawaii are primarily done using methods that depend on the ability to capture or see and recognize specific species. Traditional methods involve a variety of techniques including electrofishing and/or transect observations. eDNA assays offer methods that can identify species not seen or captured and that reduces misidentification. Species leave genetic signatures in the environment they inhabit, which can be analyzed to determine species identification for an aquatic ecosystem. eDNA methods do not rely on a species being present at the time of collection and can include vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, and other organisms from benthic, mid water column and surface waters. The value of this method is the quick and benign sampling of what has been or is present in a particular area including invasive, threatened, endangered, or pathogenic species. Identifying species is only limited by the primers which are quite extensive and, if not available, can be developed as needed.
The participants in this citizen science project will add to information on coastal species richness. Students and teachers will be trained to collect and preserve coastal water samples from designated areas at or nearby KOKL campuses for eDNA processing (extraction, amplification, sequencing, and identification) at OI. A website will be established by the students and teachers to present the information gained from this program including a database and ArcGIS map with the location, date, time, and species found. Because the sampling will take place monthly, the website will be updated regularly as new information becomes available. This program brings education into practice by allowing teachers and students to participate in data collection and to contribute to knowledge about Hawaii’s coastal environment and its inhabitants. The information gathered will add to the community’s ability to better make decisions about their natural resources, stimulate further investigations, and/or use the data in other projects.
The Hawaii STEM Learning Partnership is made possible by:
· Anderson-Beck Kokua Ulu Fund
· Deviants from the Norm Fund
· Hokuli‘a Community Fund
· Jack’s Fund
· Kuki‘o Community Fund
· Maunakea Fund
· Pahiki Nui Fund
· THINK Fund at HCF
· Richard Smart Fund