A $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation EPSCoR program will fund a five-year initiative that aims to revolutionize environmental monitoring, ecological understanding and sustainability of coastal ecosystems.
The University of Maine is partnering with Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and other collaborators in education, government agencies, citizen’s groups and local industry statewide.
The Maine Environmental DNA (Maine-eDNA) initiative represents a multi-institutional partnership that will position Maine as a national leader in the understanding and sustainable use of coastal ecosystems, and in addressing the statewide workforce needs in critically important areas, including biotechnology, ecology, environmental and data sciences, says principal investigator Kody Varahramyan, UMaine vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School.
Organisms leave traces of DNA, the universal code for life, wherever they go — in the water, air or soil. These traces can be collected, identified and linked back to those species, much like evidence at a crime scene.
Environmental DNA (eDNA) is like a genetic fingerprint of a marine ecosystem. Organisms leave traces of DNA, the universal code for life, wherever they go — in the water, air or soil. These traces can be collected, identified and linked back to those species, much like evidence at a crime scene.
The resulting data can show where, when and how species and groups of organisms have interacted with each other and their coastal habitats.
Collected eDNA can be combined into larger and more comprehensive data sets that scientists can reanalyze to answer ever-evolving questions about how coastal systems work — and what makes them resilient or susceptible to change.
The Maine-eDNA program will continue statewide, multi-institutional marine-related research following the completion of the Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network (SEANET) program, the NSF EPSCoR project awarded in 2014. As noted in the newly released University of Maine System Research and Development Plan, Maine EPSCoR has a critical role in improving R&D infrastructure and capacity statewide.