Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Virginia
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Virginia Project

Development of an eDNA protocol for detecting candy, variegate, and Kanawha darters

March 2018 - December 2019


Participating Agencies

  • Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Three species of saddle darters (Etheostoma variatum group) occur in Virginia. All are rare and difficult to sample because of their preference for fast riffle habitat. Better understanding of the distribution of saddle darter populations would inform management planning and enhance cost-effectiveness of management actions. Future surveying efforts for saddle darters would benefit from tools that help identify streams with high probabilities of occupancy, as well as from sampling methodologies that are rapid, non-invasive, cost-effective, and exhibit high detection probability. The project is a collaboration among USGS, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and Virginia Tech.
1. Develop a set of eDNA markers and protocols that selectively amplify DNA of the Etheostoma variatum group within ambient water samples,
2. Use field studies to develop a preliminary estimate of the detectability of Etheostoma eDNA in streams where they occur, and
3. Make recommendations on the use of eDNA techniques in subsequent studies of Etheostoma species in Virginia.