MSc Candidate with the Helbing Lab at the University of Victoria: Environmental DNA (eDNA) is DNA isolated from environmental samples such as a scoop of water. In habitats, where traditional biomonitoring methods are difficult to employ, eDNA provides a powerful alternative that can detect species from miniscule concentrations of extra-organismal DNA, and address questions regarding environmental and organismal health. I am fascinated by the intersection of genomics and marine conservation; developing tools to address this is exciting work!
Globally, coastal waters experience degradation from pollution associated with multiple discharges including storm water, industrial and agricultural runoff, and nutrient enrichment from municipal wastewater. The responses of benthic communities to nutrient enrichment and often associated low-oxygen conditions can be quite predictable. Certain indicator species proliferate in these conditions, while others are very sensitive. In collaboration with Biologica Environmental Services, our research aims to develop powerful and sensitive environmental DNA (eDNA) assays to detect these indicator species and capture their ecological responses to pollution.
In collaboration with researchers at Ocean Networks Canada we are aiming to target the commercially important Sablefish/Black Cod (Anoplopoma fimbriatum) in the deep sea. My research aims to create a sensitive eDNA test that we can be used to compare the efficacy of eDNA surveys with that of baited remote underwater video (BRUV), and secondly, to see whether we can estimate historical abundances of Sablefish populations using deep sea sediment cores. Using eDNA analysis to detect species of interest over time provides an ideal and novel way to access the trove of historical data that remains locked in the deep sea.
Rockfish Project: The world is losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate due to climate change, and anthropogenic development. Rockfish of the genus Sebastes are one of the groups that have been declining over the past decades, largely in part to the rise of poorly regulated commercial and recreational fisheries alongside anthropogenic climate change. They have been a culturally important food fish for First Nations for millennia, and they are considered a “flagship” species meaning that their conservation confers protection to associated habitats and species. This project, In collaboration with the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance (CCIRA) will contribute survey data to established groundfish monitoring research projects to inform local resource management and marine protected area planning. Using eDNA targeted and metabarcoding techniques alongside long-running SCUBA and camera surveys contributes useful data to Nation research projects while also establishing innovative molecular ecological monitoring methods that can be used for future monitoring and research.
Olympia Oyster Project
The Olympia oyster (Ostrea lurida) is the only native oyster along the coast of British Columbia, and it is listed as Special Concern under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). This species is highly sensitive to the increases in anthropogenic pressures apparent in the coastal, estuarine environments where they reside. As this species currently occurs in low densities in a sporadic distribution along the British Columbia coastline it is a great candidate for biomonitoring via environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling. The aim of this work is to design and validate an eDNA test that can detect and provide relative abundance of the Olympia oyster along the British Columbia coastline.
Milsom Lab at the University of British Columbia: For my undergraduate thesis I worked on a project examining cardiorespiratory interactions in a model elasmobranch. This research shed light on the physiological mechanisms underpinning the efficiency of oxygen uptake in the evolutionarily distinct cartilaginous fishes. It was an amazing project to introduce me to the world of scientific research and our work was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.