Conservation, Government, Press Release
As part of Ascension’s new approach to biodiversity monitoring to enhance conservation efforts, AIG Conservation hope to utilise the new technology of Environmental DNA (eDNA) to extract and analyse eDNA from the island's environment. Environmental DNA refers to the genetic material left behind by organisms in their surrounding environment. By isolating and sequencing eDNA, we can identify the presence of various species without the need for traditional methods such as direct observation or capture. This non-invasive technique has revolutionised ecological research and provides valuable insights into the distribution and abundance of species.
AIG Conservation are proud to announce a ground-breaking milestone as the first eDNA sequencing run was completed on Ascension Island in our dedicated eDNA lab. This achievement marks a significant step in understanding and monitoring the delicate ecosystem of the island. This momentous occasion would not have been possible without funding from our partners: Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Program, the UK Government’s Blue Belt Programme, the Darwin Plus funded project DPLUS165, Blue Marine Foundation and the kind help of the wider island community.
The samples being analysed have come from a range of sources. Over the course of the past year the AIGCFD have been regularly collecting a variety of DNA samples such as water from inshore monitoring stations, plankton tows, settlement plates and pitfall traps. The Discovery research cruise helped gather offshore samples from deep within the Ascension marine protected area (MPA) and Tug boats based around Ascension for the runway repair project kindly allowed AIG Conservation onboard to take samples up to 12 miles offshore. Citizen scientists travelling on yachts from St. Helena to Ascension donated their time and became temporary research vessels to gather plankton and water samples while on route. There has been a huge amount of assistance from the Ascension fishing community via the donation of fish gut content samples to help with food web analysis.
Preliminary results from the first eDNA sequencing run are being processed on Island and a bulletin highlighting the results will be posted for those interested. It is hoped that the data obtained will inform future conservation strategies, enable the protection of vulnerable species, and aid in the development of sustainable management practices for the Ascension’s environment.
As a part of AIG Conservation’s ongoing efforts, we plan to collaborate with research partners at the University of Edinburgh and the London Natural History Museum to share data from eDNA sequencing projects with public global databases to advance understanding of the world’s biodiversity.