The Florida Department of Transportation conducted an eDNA Pilot Study (2022)
for federally protected mussels within Florida’s Choctawhatchee River drainage
basin to facilitate detection (presence / absence) of freshwater mussels and to
support new scientific methodologies for use in completing the Section 7 and 10
Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation process specific to transportation
projects, and projects with creeks and rivers that support protected mussels.
Fifteen freshwater mussels in the State of Florida have protection under the ESA.
Efforts to repair, maintain, and expand road and bridge networks in the state result
in regular consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for mussels.
Fundamental elements of these consultations are site specific presence/absence
conventional surveys (e.g., field and dive surveys) and mussel salvage and
relocation efforts. FDOT developed a Study to evaluate the use of environmental
DNA (eDNA - genetic material released from urine, waste, mucus, or sloughed
cells) to detect the presence of mussel species. Conventional mussel surveys can
be difficult to conduct, require specialized collecting permits, and require
considerable taxonomic expertise, and field experience. Sampling using eDNA can
enhance detection while being less costly and less intrusive on the environment
while avoiding challenging and hazardous conditions. The Study evaluates the
efficacy of the eDNA approach by comparing it with data generated by
conventional survey methods following U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
protocols. Results of this project can provide a framework for other protected,
cryptic, or rare species.