Project proposal details

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Project title
Field-based environmental DNA detection of the great crested newt Triturus cristatus
Contact name
Victoria Priestley (Savolainen Lab) and Vincent Savolainen
Project based at
Silwood Park (Imperial)
Imperial contact email
Project description
Environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys are formally approved as a method to detect the great crested newt (GCN). Water samples are taken in the field, mixed with a DNA preservative and transported to an accredited lab for DNA extraction and amplification by qPCR.

While eDNA represents a significant efficiency saving over traditional methods (particularly when surveying large numbers of ponds), this project seeks to make further gains by developing a method to extract and amplify GCN DNA in the field, within minutes. GENIE III is a field-based isothermal amplification instrument with the potential to revolutionise GCN and other DNA-based surveys of species. We have shown in the Savolainen Lab that DNA concentration in medium and low GCN abundance ponds is currently beyond GENIE's limit of detection, but hypothesise that by filtering larger volumes of water and/or using samples of pond sediment, DNA concentration is more likely to be within range.

This is an applied project, commissioned by and working in partnership with Thomson Ecological Consultants and OptiGene.
Additional requirements
A full driving licence would be useful (but not essential), to travel to field sites. Student would need to be comfortable working away from Silwood Park at field sites and using laboratory instruments.
Selection and eligibility
Available date limitations: sampling has to occur between late March - June 2020, due to the seasonality of GCN.
Date uploaded

Project proposal limitations

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Research project proposals are usually part of an active research programme. If supervisors have stated limitations to a proposal, then they are unlikely to have any flexibility. If you are very interested in the topic but have problems with the stated limitations, the supervisor may still be happy to talk to you about other options around the proposal, but you should not expect that any alternative arrangements can be made.

Project length limitations
5 months
Available date limitations
Spring (April-May)
Suitable for
Ecology Evolution and Conservation, Ecological Applications, Ecosystem and Environmental Change MRes