BDN speaks with Kinnison for article about mudpuppies

The Bangor Daily News spoke with Michael Kinnison, a professor of evolutionary applications at the University of Maine, for an article about mudpuppies. Mudpuppies are the largest amphibian in Maine, capable of growing to more than 16 inches in length, and were accidentally introduced to the state in 1939. Now the colorful, bottom-dwelling, nocturnal salamanders are thriving in Maine’s lakes, streams and rivers, according to the article. And the mudpuppy is part of a UMaine research project focused on environmental DNA, or eDNA, which is DNA expelled by an organism into its environment. This DNA can be collected in environmental samples, such as soil, water and air, and used to track specific organisms. The mudpuppy is “a classic example” of how eDNA can be used, according to Kinnison, who is the science lead for the Maine-eDNA program. “If this was an animal that people could see readily at any time, say a bird, there’s a good chance people would be able to spot it and count it,” Kinnison said. “Where eDNA comes in handy is when dealing with organisms that are relatively rare or difficult to find or unfamiliar to people.” The UMaine eDNA lab worked with the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife to collect water samples from bodies of water, and verify their findings based on data collected from mudpuppy traps. “We’re certainly getting there. We’ve designed the lab tool,” said Kinnison. “We’ve shown that it will detect mudpuppy DNA down to forensic levels — a few molecules of DNA in a liter of water. Now we’re working on how to deploy the tool in the field to use it effectively.” The National Science Foundation awarded a $20 million grant to a five-year Maine-eDNA initiative to further develop the technology at UMaine, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, and beyond, the BDN reported. WGME (Channel 13 in Portland) carried the BDN report.