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

Tennessee Project

Environmental DNA Surveillance of Rare species

January 2022 - January 2025


Participating Agencies

  • Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge System
  • Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

The aim of the proposed project is to use environmental DNA (eDNA) surveillance to monitor Little Chucky Creek and associated tributaries with similar habitat features within its known and former range for the presence of chucky madtom (a federally endangered catfish) known from only two systems, Little Chucky Creek and Dunn Creek.

While likely extirpated (doesn't exist in the wild) from Dunn Creek, the chucky madtom may still exist in a small stretch (3 km) of the Little Chucky Creek. However, given the rarity and cryptic behavior of this fish, surveillance with traditional methods (e.g., snorkeling or kick-seining) is time consuming, may yield inaccurate detection, or harm the species.

Environmental DNA may offer an alternative surveillance option for this small, cryptic, and extremely rare fish species. Environmental DNA surveillance works by collecting a water sample from targeted sites with no harm or harassment to the animal or habitat, and offers a less time-consuming and more sensitive surveillance method for rare and cryptic species.