Project proposal details

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Project title
Using eDNA to detect the Critically Endangered Angelshark in Wales
Contact name
Vincent Savolainen
Project based at
Silwood Park (Imperial)
Project description
Angel Shark Project: Wales has recently commenced a 12-month eDNA survey to investigate the presence of the Angelshark (Squatina squatina) off the Welsh Coast. The Angelshark is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, with a historical range from Africa to the UK. Recent fishing records have indicated that the species remains off the coast of Wales, but little is known about Angelshark ecology in the region. Environmental DNA is an incredibly powerful tool for the detection of rare and elusive species and the method represents one of the best chances we have for confirming the distribution of the species in the UK. The Zoological Society of London has teamed up with Natural Resources Wales to deliver Angel Shark Project: Wales and plan to survey for eDNA in 10 location in North Cardigan Bay each month for a year, with sampling starting in September 2020. (NB samples will be collected by the ASP:W Coordinator and provided to the student for analysis)

A pilot study, conducted in 2019, indicated the presence of S. squatina in eDNA samples taken around the Welsh coast, but further analyses of these samples are required. The student will also test the qPCR assay for specificity when used in UK waters and make alterations if necessary, this will involve acquisition of tissue from UK elasmobranch species followed by DNA extraction and qPCR testing. Environmental DNA samples from Wales will arrive monthly and the student will extract DNA from the filters and test them for S. squatina DNA using the optimised qPCR assay. There is also the potential to design a sampling strategy to investigate the difference between eDNA present in water vs sediment samples. The student will be able to use the results to investigate the presence of this species across months and attempt to correlate eDNA relative abundance with a recently developed species distribution map and historical fishing records.

The project is cosujervised by Nick Dunn (PhD student), Jake Davies (ZSL), Joanna Barker (ZSL) and Ben Wray (NRW)
Date uploaded

Project proposal limitations

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Project length limitations
3.5 months, 5 months, 9 months
Available date limitations
Autumn (Sept-Oct), Winter (January), Spring (April-May)
Suitable for
Ecology Evolution and Conservation, Computational Methods in Ecology and Evolution (MSc), Computational Methods in Ecology and Evolution (MRes), Ecological Applications, Tropical Forest Ecology MRes, Ecosystem and Environmental Change MRes