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eDNA to improve waterway monitoring of invasive and native fish

Updated: May 22

TropWATER is working with OzFish and the Townsville City Council to use environmental DNA (eDNA) methods to improve waterway monitoring in the Australian tropics.

The project aims to understand which invasive and native species are in key waterways, to help monitor the health of our aquatic systems and improve management.

Lead researcher Dr. Cecilia Villacorta-Rath said eDNA was an innovative and cost-effective technique to identify key species without the need for sighting them.

“eDNA analysis can capture the ‘DNA footprint’ that is left in the water – we don’t need to see the species to detect its presence,” she said.

“By collecting water samples and running an analysis in our lab, we can determine what fish species live in the creeks.”

“Long-term eDNA data will give insight into the fish communities inhabiting these sampled creeks and how these fish communities change over time.”

Citizen science-led programs like OzFish and Creekwatch have monitored the health of local creeks in Townsville using methods such as traps and nets in the past, which are labor-intensive and selective, and not able to capture the whole fish biodiversity present in a waterbody.

Dr. Villacorta-Rath said eDNA was a valuable tool for these community programs to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the fish species found in these waterways.

“We have run multiple workshops in Townsville to train community groups on how to take water samples for eDNA analysis.”

“Anyone can take water samples for analysis, and it’s great to see so many members of the public get involved.”

More field trips are planned for the Townsville, Herbert, and Burdekin regions. To participate in the next OzFish eDNA sampling event (being held in the Burdekin), please visit:

This project is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and is being delivered in partnership with OzFish Unlimited, James Cook University (TropWATER), and Townsville City Council.


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