In-situ Autonomous Acquisition and Preservation of Environmental DNA Using the Environmental Sample Processor

Kevan Yamahara1, Christina M Preston2, James M Birch1, Roman Marin III2, Nathan Truelove3, Yanwu Zhang2, Kelly D. Goodwin4, Francisco Chavez5 and Chris A Scholin6, (1)Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Watsonville, CA, United States, (2)MBARI, Moss Landing, CA, United States, (3)Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, United States, (4)NOAA Miami, Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division, Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, Miami, FL, United States, (5)Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, CA, United States, (6)Organization Not Listed, Washington, DC, United States
Over the past decade environmental DNA (eDNA) assessments have increasingly been applied to detect aquatic organisms. While there is great promise in using eDNA to identify organisms from multiple trophic levels in a single sample of water, acquiring that sample can be surprisingly difficult. For instance, appropriately scaling sample acquisition to the spatial and temporal scales needed for effective biodiversity monitoring in open ocean settings would require prohibitively large investments in ship time and human resources. In this presentation we demonstrate how the use of an autonomous eDNA collection and preservation system, the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), can help alleviate those limitations. We enumerated genes from diverse taxa (from microbes to vertebrates) to establish equivalency of sample collection/preservation methods using the ESP in comparison to traditional, manual eDNA sample handling methods. The efficacy of the ESP compared favorably with manual methods and was less prone to contamination. Finally, we demonstrated the unique capabilities and opportunities of utilizing the ESP on an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to observe complex biological processes in ocean settings.