Monday, February 8, 2010

e-DNA: The Answer

I have an answer. Well, I don’t have the complete answer yet but that’s only because I haven’t read all the information that was sent to me by Thomas Cmar of the Natural Resources Defense Council in response to my last post. Here’s an excerpt from Thom’s email:

Probably the best source for an answer to your question is Professor David Lodge of the University of Notre Dame, the invasive species expert who has been hired by the Army Corps of Engineers to perform the e-DNA testing for Asian carp in the Chicago waterway system.

In support of the brief filed by the U.S. Solicitor General with the Supreme Court (in opposition to Michigan’s first motion for a preliminary injunction), the U.S. filed an affidavit by Dr. Lodge explaining e-DNA. I am attaching a copy of the affidavit. Although the affidavit was filed by the U.S. Government, it provides information about the reliability of e-DNA a monitoring tool that, if anything, actually supports Michigan’s arguments about the urgency of the Asian carp threat.

On page 3 of the 25-page declaration prepared by Lodge for the Supreme Court, following Professor Lodge’s credentials is this statement:

In early 2009, we developed and tested a novel DNA-based surveillance tool for fishes, using both laboratory experiments and field observations. In early spring 2009, we first proposed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that this tool could be useful in their efforts to learn the locations of the invasion fronts for the silverhead and bighead carps in the Chicago are waterway. Beginning in summer 2009, the Army Corps of Engineers began to financially support our use of the environmental DNA (e-DNA) tool as potentially the best available technology to detect the presence of silver carp and bighead carp where they exist in low abundance.

Now I know what e-DNA is. I suspected that it stood for environmental but now I know for sure. I will read the rest of the affidavit to learn more. My own background is in clinical diagnostics, and I know a little about DNA based laboratory testing, so I expect to read the paper and understand it. But even if you don’t read it or understand it, it sure helps to know that the argument as presented to the Supreme Court is based on solid science.

Now my next question is what will happen today at the White House Summit. We are all waiting to hear about that later today, although in a more recent email from Thom, he wondered whether the summit would actually take place today because of the humongous snowstorm. The meeting might become what someone I know would call a “weather interrupted event”.

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