My name is Katie Graybeal and this summer I interned at the Environmental DNA genomics lab to study aquatic invasive species. My Global Leadership theme is Natural Resources and Sustainability so I focused this internship on Montana’s river and lake systems. I chose this focus because I believe that rivers and lakes holds significant economic and intrinsic value for us all. For this experience, I researched invasive species specifically Zebra Mussels, and monitored their progress and provide early detection before they could endanger our waterways. I learned how to sample Environmental DNA which is cellular material shed by organisms into aquatic environments that can be sampled and monitored using a new molecular method called qPCR. QPCR also known as quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction monitors and amplifies targeted DNA molecules to detect a match between sample DNA and the DNA it is encoded to search for. During this internship, I found that eDNA can be used to not only find invasive species but also endangered or rare species opening up many options to conserve or protect natural resources in the future. Since this is a new and developing technology, improvements in protocols and procedures are very common giving me the skills to pitch and enact new ideas. With this technology rapidly improving some hope to develop it for other purposes like virus detection. I find myself wondering how eDNA can help us with other non aquatic tasks and make the jump to a more terrestrial setting.
(Sampling in Glacier National Park)