[MARMAM] New paper using eDNA to study population genetic structure of harbor porpoise in Alaska

Kim M Parsons kim.parsons at noaa.gov
Fri Aug 10 11:08:16 PDT 2018

We are pleased to announce our recent publication in Royal Society Open 
Science using eDNA to generate population level sequence data to address 
the population structure of harbor porpoise in southeast Alaska.

Link to the full manuscript can be found here:



Determining management units for natural populations is
critical for effective conservation and management. However,
collecting the requisite tissue samples for population genetic
analyses remains the primary limiting factor for a number of
marine species. The harbour porpoise (/Phocoena phocoena/), one
of the smallest cetaceans in the Northern Hemisphere, is a
primary example. These elusive, highly mobile small animals
confound traditional approaches of collecting tissue samples
for genetic analyses, yet their nearshore habitat makes them
highly vulnerable to fisheries by-catch and the effects of habitat
degradation. By exploiting the naturally shed cellular material
in seawater and the power of next-generation sequencing,
we develop a novel approach for generating population specific
mitochondrial sequence data from environmental
DNA (eDNA) using surface seawater samples. Indications of
significant genetic differentiation within a currently recognized
management stock highlights the need for dedicated eDNA
sampling throughout the population’s range in southeast
Alaska. This indirect sampling tactic for characterizing stock
structure of small and endangered marine mammals has the
potential to revolutionize population assessment for otherwise
inaccessible marine taxa.



Kim M. Parsons, Ph.D.

Research Biologist

Marine Mammal Laboratory
NOAA, Alaska Fisheries Science Center
7600 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115


Conservation Genetics
NOAA, Northwest Fisheries Science Center
2725 Montlake Blvd E
Seattle, WA 98112

cell phone  206 661 5446
lab phone   206 302 2428
kim.parsons at noaa.gov


[NGOS - Government Contractor for Marine Mammal Laboratory, AFSC NOAA]

"There is no science without fancy, and no art without facts."
S.J. Gould

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