Nathan, L. M., Simmons, M., Wegleitner, B. J., Jerde, C. L., & Mahon, A. R.
The use of molecular surveillance techniques has become popular among aquatic researchers and managers due to the improved sensitivity and efficiency compared to traditional sampling methods. Rapid expansion in the use of environmental DNA (eDNA), paired with the advancement of molecular technologies, has resulted in new detection platforms and techniques. In this study we present a comparison of three eDNA surveillance platforms: traditional polymerase chain reaction (PCR), quantitative PCR (qPCR), and digital droplet PCR (ddPCR) in which water samples were collected over a 24 h time period from mesocosm experiments containing a population gradient of invasive species densities. All platforms reliably detected the presence of DNA, even at low target organism densities within the first hour. The two quantitative platforms (qPCR and ddPCR) produced similar estimates of DNA concentrations. The analyses completed with ddPCR was faster from sample collection through analyses and cost approximately half the expenditure of qPCR. Although a new platform for eDNA surveillance of aquatic species, ddPCR was consistent with more commonly used qPCR and a cost-effective means of estimating DNA concentrations. Use of ddPCR by researchers and managers should be considered in future eDNA surveillance applications.