The Natural History Museum (@NHMHydroscape) team has recently been busy undertaking the first of many sampling trips for the project. We spent a week in May enjoying the beautiful Norfolk countryside collecting water and sediment samples. We visited lakes and rivers to collect water and sediments for our project on disease distributions, and to scoop up mud to collect dormant stages (statoblasts) of freshwater bryozoans for our project on gene flow and genetic diversity.
In common with all Hydroscape work packages, the overall aim of our projects is to understand how multiple stressors and connectivity impact on biodiversity and ecosystem function. In one project we are using molecular approaches to identify the DNA of key disease agents in environmental samples (water and sediments) – the so-called environmental DNA, or eDNA approach. In our other project we are using highly variable markers (called microsatellites) to characterise gene flow and genetic diversity in bryozoan populations that vary in dispersal capacity. Together our projects are examining how stressors and connectivity impact on disease distributions and patterns of genetic diversity across the UK landscape, with particular focus on the effects of hydrological continuity and waterfowl abundance. The latter are known to be important vectors of dispersal of both freshwater organisms and disease agents.
During the week we also teamed up with fellow Hydroscape-er Geoff Phillips from Stirling University, to collect samples by boat from three large open Broad sites. Despite the wet, windy and chilly conditions on that particular day (the ominous Friday the 13th), we managed to hold out long enough to collect our samples, whilst also covering Geoff’s boat (and ourselves) with large volumes of mud. Undeterred, Geoff has scheduled our next boat trip for July.
Back at the cottage, the evenings were filled with sieving mud samples in pursuit of tiny statoblasts, and filtering large volumes of water through multiple filtration devices in order to concentrate the environmental DNA prior to extraction back at the museum.
With vast numbers of samples collected, filtered and sieved, it was a very successful first sampling trip, and we all look forward to heading back to Norfolk in July for the next instalment.
Natural History Museum Hydroscape Team