Project Title: eDNA Field Sampling Protocol to Locate Feral Swine in Michigan

Faculty Sponsor: Karmen Hollis-Etter

Department: Biology

Telephone: 810.762.3360


Project Description: Environmental DNA (eDNA) is a unique approach to locate and identify wildlife including rare, endangered, cryptic, and invasive species.  Samples can be collected from a large variety of resources, such as lakes, streams, and other standing water sources, vegetation contact by species and even footprints left in the snow (Dalén et al., 2007; Nichols et al., 2012).  Recent research in southern Florida waterways successfully used eDNA to detect the invasive Burmese python through water samples (Piaggio et al., 2014).  Advantages of using eDNA as a monitoring and detection tool include reduced effort, refinement of search area, cost effectiveness, and is non-invasive (e.g., does not require handling live animals).  Management agencies are seeking to eradicate feral swine occupying MI and control agencies are searching for techniques to efficiently monitoring areas for feral swine.  Our research goal is to develop a sampling protocol using environmental eDNA to increase detection of feral swine (Russian Boar) in MI at low densities that can be applied to the upper USA.  

Student Tasks & Responsibilities:  

  1. Relevant literature search
  2. Trail camera set-up, monitoring, and image review
  3. Assist with sample collection in the field, processing lab samples, and picking up/shipping samples
  4. Deliver equipment and order supplies
  5. Handle and obtain various feral swine DNA materials for identification in a water system
  6. Assist in collecting data and entering into databases
  7. Meet and communicate with faculty advisor, graduate student, landowners, and research investigators from MDNR, USDA Wildlife Services, MSU, NWRC, and UM-Flint.

Minimum Student Qualifications: 

  1. Dedicated to work in applied field of wildlife biology
  2. Detail oriented
  3. Learn quickly, work independently, take instructions, and follow protocols
  4. Ability to do field work under various weather conditions, in difficult terrain, and during various hours
  5. Flexible schedule, including weekends
  6. Field skills (operate motorized vehicles, use GPS, map skills, change tire, etc)
  7. Computer skills
  8. Use of trail cameras or willing to learn
  9. Conduct professional literature search
  10. Communicate effectively
  11. Lab safety training