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Tuesday, January 30 • 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Poster Display. An Ecological Framework for Using Environmental DNA (eDNA) to Detect Kirtland’s Snakes (Clonophis kirtlandii)

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AUTHORS: Rikki Ratsch, graduate student, Indiana University-Purdue University; Tyler Scoville, graduate student, Indiana University-Purdue University; Bruce A. Kingsbury Department of Biology, Indiana University-Purdue University; Mark A. Jordan, Department of Biology, Indiana University-Purdue University

ABSTRACT: Kirtland’s snakes (Clonophis kirtlandii) are an imperiled species endemic to the Midwest. Their small size and cryptic nature has made them difficult to study using traditional methods. This has contributed to a limited understanding of their distribution and abundance, hindering informed management decisions. Environmental DNA (eDNA) has seen increasing use in wildlife management over the past few years as an additional survey methodology. For eDNA assays to be validated and effective, it is important to describe and develop a model system in the field that demonstrates a gradient in snake abundance for use in documenting eDNA presence, resolution, and persistence. A commonly used technique for assessing herpetofauna presence and relative abundance are coverboard surveys. This was applied to evaluate Kirtland’s snake abundance across the 7,802-acre Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge. Cover objects were placed in transects running alongside water bodies throughout the refuge and checked weekly. These surveys revealed a temporal and spatial variance in snake abundance. Seasonally, snake abundance peaks in late May before gradually decreasing to a low in late August. A gradient of abundance was also found, with a high concentration of snakes in the southern area of the refuge and a low occurrence of snakes elsewhere, especially in the north. The spatial gradient in snake abundance discovered through these surveys will be used to select areas of differing snake abundance for environmental sampling. We predict the highest levels of eDNA will be in the south of the refuge, where snake density is the highest, as well as in the spring and fall, when seasonal snake abundance peaks. Environmental samples collected from crayfish burrows, nearby soil, and open water will allow us to test this hypothesis. Preliminary results on the collected environmental samples will be presented. 

Tuesday January 30, 2018 6:00pm - 9:00pm CST
Ballroom C & Foyer