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projects > efficacy of edna as an early detection and rapid response indicator for burmese pythons in the northern greater everglades ecosystem

Efficacy of eDNA as an early detection and rapid response indicator for Burmese Pythons in the northern Greater Everglades Ecosystem

photo of spatterdock floating in water
Project Investigator: Margaret Hunter

Project Personnel: Kristen Hart, Robert Reed, Rebekah Gibble, Marcie Kapsch

Project Start Date: 2014 End Date: 2016

Recent Funding: (FY14) USGS GE PES


Summary

This project will (1) develop sampling density methodology for accurate detection of Burmese pythons in laboratory and field settings. (2) Use this information to develop sampling design in areas where Burmese pythons have not been identified to date. Detection limits and environmental variables that influence eDNA detection will be assessed. (3) Selected areas in and around ARM Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge will be surveyed at appropriate densities to help determine detection probabilities and range-boundaries of Burmese pythons.

In a pilot study, eDNA methods detected radio tagged snakes in Collier County, and unsighted Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park and Deering Estates (Hunter et al. submitted). Further, water samples were collected in Holey Land Wildlife Management Area (HLWM) after an eyewitness report of a large snake, possibly an anaconda or Burmese python. From three collected samples, one resulted in a positive detection for Burmese pythons, while the tests for Anaconda were negative. The presence of pythons in HLWM and nearby Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) 5 indicates that Burmese pythons are moving further to the north and possibly approaching the ARM Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge boundaries.

The ARM Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is an important area for native flora and fauna. The Refuge (also water conservation area (WCA) 1 is maintained to provide water storage and flood control in south Florida. The water storage areas, along with areas of Everglades National Park, are the remaining locations of the original Everglades habitat. The Refuge works to restore the Everglades ecosystem to the benefit of wildlife. Since Burmese pythons have the potential to significantly reduce native species, python detection and rapid removal prior to establishment could be of great benefit to the Refuge.

Environmental DNA methods can assist with early detection of novel invasive species and range delimitation or expansion for established species. Further, these methods can be used to monitor habitat critical to the survival of imperiled native species and assess the success of rapid response control or removal efforts within strategic areas. Using the described eDNA methods we propose to (1) develop sampling density methodology for accurate detection of Burmese pythons in laboratory and field settings. (2) This information will then be used to develop sampling design in areas where Burmese pythons have not been identified to date. Detection limits and environmental variables that influence eDNA detection will be assessed. (2) Selected areas in and around ARM Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge will be surveyed at appropriate densities to help determine detection probabilities and range-boundaries of Burmese pythons. Samples will focus on Burmese python habitat within the south and west borders of the Refuge. Further, samples could be collected inside the Refuge at wading bird colonies possibly at risk of predation. Outside of the Refuge, sampling will focus on the adjoining areas where pythons have been detected, including WCAs, STAs and Everglades Agriculture Areas (EAAs).

Work Plans

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Script last updated: 23 October 2018 @ 12:03 PM by THF. Record creator: KP. Record last updated by: KP.