Environmental DNA will be the research focus of Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine in its proposal for national Track I EPSCoR funding — a five-year, $20 million grant funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The research topic was selected for Maine’s next Track I proposal by the state EPSCoR committee following a deliberative review process. The final proposal will be submitted to NSF in August 2018.
The University of Maine will be partnering with Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences as co-lead. Kody Varahramyan, UMaine vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School, will serve as principal investigator; David Emerson, senior research scientist at Bigelow, as a technical lead.
Environmental DNA (eDNA) refers to DNA that can be extracted from environmental samples without first isolating or physically observing target organisms. And, it can be applied to all aquatic life.
The research in Maine will focus on developing state of the art molecular monitoring techniques that can be integrated with chemical and physical diagnostics. The information acquired will be analyzed using advanced computational methods to assess the “big data.” This will provide an unprecedented, comprehensive analysis of Maine’s coastal aquatic ecosystems.
Through this work, researchers will be better prepared to predict how an ecosystem will respond to change, to understand what mitigation strategies might be most effective to counter such change, and to develop plans for how communities might adapt to ongoing change.
Maine’s marine resources are powerful economic engines, and it is critical that the state continues to develop and maintain a strong presence in relevant areas of ecosystem science, Emerson says. The goals of this project are to unify Maine’s marine research community toward common objectives, to conduct a research program that encourages innovation and the professional development of young researchers, and to cultivate a spirit of entrepreneurship and development through collaboration that will contribute to the state’s economic viability.
The University of Maine and Bigelow Laboratory will engage a network of stakeholders on this proposal to make Maine a center for molecular monitoring of aquatic ecosystems based on an array of eDNA technologies and cyberinfrastructure resources.