The objective of this Statement of Need was to support the maturation of Environmental DNA (eDNA) from fundamental research to the applied research level with the anticipation that a future tool in conservation in both terrestrial, aquatic, and marine ecosystems relevant to Department of Defense (DoD) lands might be developed.
Specific research objectives included the following:
- Determine the temporal and spatial distribution of eDNA in habitats of relevance on DoD lands as related to temporal and spatial biodiversity of ecosystems in general and the distribution of at-risk or specific threatened and endangered species.
- Advance the science and the body of knowledge necessary to provide improved confidence in species presence and absence determinations and eDNA measurements.
- Expand the science and the body of knowledge necessary to provide increasingly precise links between eDNA concentration and species abundance.
Proposers were asked to specifically state the rationale for their research approach, describe their understating of current practice, and explain how their approach would result in new insight into the collection and critical interpretation of eDNA results. Proposers were required to demonstrate a knowledge of the current state of eDNA science and relevant current and past SERDP research efforts and place their proposed research within the context of the current state of knowledge. Proposers were asked to clearly articulate their objectives in terms of knowledge points or research objectives critical to the success and further progress of their proposed project. If a knowledge point or objective was critical for overall project success, the proposer should have established it as a go/no go criterion and should have stated an approach to risk mitigation should the research outcome not meet the established go criterion. To the extent that the proposal sought the development of a new eDNA management method or an improvement in a current method, the proposal should have included a preliminary examination of the apparent cost and benefit of incorporating the new method, should one result from the research. To the extent that modeling was proposed, a model validation scheme using observed, non-synthetic data and an approach leading to incorporation of the resultant model into proposed or existing tools must have been explicitly described. All three research objectives did not need to be addressed in any individual proposal.
Funded projects will appear below as project overviews are posted to the website.
The expected benefit of the proposed work is the growth of the use and understanding of the presence of eDNA in the environment as a future tool for DoD land managers in the performance of their duties. These duties include monitoring biodiversity, understanding the distribution of species, estimation of species abundance, and monitoring how plant and animal populations change through time and space on DoD lands. An improved understanding in the temporal and spatial distribution of eDNA in habitats of relevance on DoD lands will likely have many benefits to include reduced sampling cost and improved management decisions. Using eDNA to monitor, detect, and manage species and resultant land use is its infancy but the power of the technology will influence, perhaps control, future DoD land management. The focus of this statement of need is the continued maturation of the basic and applied science to a point where a tool in the future could be developed to provide a high degree of technical confidence. The demonstration of a specific tool or user manual for use by current DoD land managers is beyond the scope of this need statement.
DoD land management, driven by good stewardship and compliance to federal regulation, is built in large part on quantitative information. Many conservation activities call for an understanding of species distribution and population. Although eDNA presence may correlate with determinations of species presence, methods to determine population structure and abundance through eDNA remain to be developed and face an abundance of challenges. The environment itself and its dynamic nature is one challenge. Another challenge is the lack of understanding of how any recovered eDNA is generated and how these processes may influence eDNA stability over time. However, genetic monitoring techniques are becoming more quantitative and, through maturation of that knowledge, it may become possible to track population dynamics in near real time at fine spatial scales. Such capabilities would, in turn, open a new page in our understanding and, potentially, management of ecosystem quality.
The cost and time to meet the requirements of this SON are at the discretion of the proposer. Two options are available:
Standard Proposals: These proposals describe a complete research effort. It is anticipated that the scope of this statement of need is such that a multi-disciplinary team will be required to execute a successful effort. While proposals for single investigator efforts are accepted, they are unlikely to be of sufficient scope to compete successfully. The proposer should incorporate the appropriate time, schedule, and cost requirements to accomplish the scope of work proposed. SERDP projects normally run from two to four years in length and vary considerably in cost consistent with the scope of the effort. It is expected that most proposals will fall into this category.
Limited Scope Proposals: Proposers with innovative approaches to the SON that entail high technical risk or have minimal supporting data may submit a Limited Scope Proposal for funding up to $200,000 and approximately one year in duration. Such proposals may be eligible for follow-on funding if they result in a successful initial project. The objective of these proposals should be to acquire the data necessary to demonstrate proof-of-concept or reduction of risk that will lead to development of a future Standard Proposal. Proposers should submit Limited Scope Proposals in accordance with the SERDP Core Solicitation instructions and deadlines.