Contributed by Scott George, Posted 8/29/23: During June and July 2023, the USGS New York Water Science Center partnered with Smith-Root and the USGS READI-Net Program to pilot the use of a new prototype robotic eDNA sampler. This robot was installed inside the USGS streamgage at the Hudson River in Troy, NY. The robotic sampler can collect and archive (through desiccation) 8 samples. A technician is still required to retrieve the samples and send them to a lab – but the programmable nature of the robot allows samples to be taken on any interval, enables nighttime sampling, and standardizes most aspects of the collection process. Multiple experiments were conducted during this deployment including paired sampling against more established eDNA sampling methods.
The initial pilot appears to have been successful. We were pleased that the robot was able to achieve desired filtration volumes despite having to pump water across a rise and run of 15 and 56 feet, respectively. The actual samples are being analyzed for Round Goby DNA using qPCR, but the resulting data will primarily be used to assess the performance of the robotic sampler relative to more established methods – rather than assessing Round Goby distribution (since the species is already known to be upstream of this gage).
Ultimately we hope to outfit streamgages with robotic samplers that can not only collect – but also analyze – eDNA samples, and then push results to the web in the same way that streamgages provide real-time discharge and turbidity data (although this vision could still be 5-10 years away).