Environmental DNA in practice: a roadmap for integrating eDNA in Australian marine park monitoring

A man kneeling in shallow water looking at a seahorse pictured underwater.

Fieldwork in Indonesia, studying cryptobenthic fish species such as this estuary seahorse (Hippocampus kuda). Credit: JP Hobbs

Australia has one of the world’s largest marine park networks to protect the nation’s cultural and economic reliance on its marine environment.

The extensive nature of these parks poses significant logistical challenges for efficient management and monitoring. While environmental DNA (eDNA) has been suggested as a potential solution to some of these challenges, practical large-scale applications remain largely lacking.

To overcome this, we are developing a roadmap towards integrating eDNA methods in marine park monitoring.

Since the logistics and challenges of marine park monitoring often differ considerably from pure academic research,
this project starts from the specific needs of resource managers to identify the aspects of bio-monitoring that eDNA can best contribute to.

An underwater picture of a man in scuba diving equipment looking directly at a sea lion which is looking back at him.

Maarten diving with a sea lion in one of Australia’s many marine parks. Credit: Greg Lecoeur

We will address best-practice eDNA field and laboratory protocols, while considering the challenges specific to eDNA and how to overcome them. With these user needs as a focal point, this project will suggest pathways towards best practice use of eDNA in marine park monitoring in Australia.

Project Lead: Dr Maarten Brauwer