fish

Global summit at University of Hull aims to transform our understanding of underwater world

 

The University of Hull is this week hosting a global summit that will pull together experts from 27 different countries to discuss pioneering new technology which could transform our understanding of the underwater world by using microscopic traces of DNA to accurately map fish populations in lakes, rivers, seas and oceans.

The symposium is the first aimed at discussing the potential of environmental DNA or “eDNA” in managing the health of aquatic environments. eDNA is the DNA that is left in an environment when an organism passes through it.

Researchers say eDNA can be used to get an accurate snapshot of all of the fish in a specific environment and that provides valuable information about water quality and the health of the environment. The information could be critical for managing fish stocks.

The aim of the prestigious Fisheries Society of the British Isles (FSBI) event is to discuss the advances of this new technology for understanding fish ecology and transform research into policy so fish populations can be accurately tracked and managed around the world. The four-day international symposium at the University of Hull has attracted more than 120 researchers and policymakers from around the world.

A team at the University of Hull led by Dr Bernd Hänfling and Dr Lori Lawson Handley have spearheaded this technology for lake fish by developing a new method which has now been rolled out to 126 UK lakes. 

 

“This has significant implications for fish ecology and management and we’re very excited to be discussing these issues with experts and policy makers from around the world.”

Dr Bernd Hänfling, University of Hull

Dr Hänfling says: “Using this new method we can accurately describe whole fish communities in a body of water and get a measure of the abundance of fish species.

“By specifically tracking the indicator species that are sensitive to water conditions, we can also carefully monitor water quality and the health of aquatic environments.

“This has significant implications for fish ecology and management and we’re very excited to be discussing these issues with experts and policy makers from around the world.”

The theme of the symposium is “Advances in eDNA-based approaches to Fish Ecology and Management” and features more than 80 presentations over the four days to explore the opportunities of how the research can be implemented.

It is the first full conference dedicated to this new field and aims to ensure researchers, stakeholders and policymakers are able to work closely together to help improve water conditions and fish health.

Dr Lawson Handley adds: “When we started planning the conference, we were worried it was going to be too specialised but we needn’t have worried. The response has been impressive and by bringing people together from all over the world, we hope to transform research into policy.

“The UK Government has already started to test this system to understand the health of lakes across the country and it could soon be adopted nationally. We believe this has significant benefits and this symposium will allow us to share exciting new developments with the rest of the world, helping to improve water conditions, manage fish stocks and restore environments.”

 

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