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Environmental DNA

Environmental DNA

What is it?

How do we monitor wildlife that we can’t always see, particularly in water? One answer is environmental DNA (eDNA). This process works by collecting water samples that get tested for trace elements of DNA left by the species living in the habitat. By gaining a better picture of what lives where, we can start to understand how we might create a healthier environment.

This month, a mana whenua rōpū/group called Te Tini o Hākuturi have been taking samples from six sites in the Kaiwharawhara whaitua/catchment; two sites sit within ZEALANDIA and one is directly outside the fence. Two ZEALANDIA staff members, Aaria Dobson-Waitere and Terese McLeod are part of Te Tini o Hākuturi. The rōpū is dedicated to combining mātauranga Māori and western knowledge to monitor the mouri/lifeforce and uphold the mana of the Kaiwharawhara whaitua/catchment.

After two successful rounds of monitoring this year, ZEALANDIA can see the results of the water restoration work we have done.  Introduced fish were removed from Roto Mahanga, the upper reservoir, in 2011, and now eDNA shows only traces of native fish including kōaro and banded kōkopu.

This information is extremely useful for setting a benchmark reading of what species are present in the waterways. If future readings show changes, we can take a deeper look to understand how we might continue to improve these habitats.

See how the process works here

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