Asbury Science & Health Department Receives Research Funding – Asbury University
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Asbury Science & Health Department Receives Research Funding

February 16, 2018

February 16, 2018

Students and professor in waders in a stream WILMORE, Ky.— Asbury science faculty member Dr. Ben Brammell and Asbury biology major Ramon Guivas ‘18 have received grants from the Kentucky Academy of Science (KAS) for their environmental DNA (eDNA) research. According to Brammell, environmental DNA is an emerging technique that enables identification of organisms using the DNA they release into the environment.

“It’s a great method for detecting species that are notoriously hard to catch,” Brammell said. “For instance, we’ve previously used it to look for hellbenders — giant salamanders that live here in central KY but are very secretive and difficult to actually catch.”

Both grants will support eDNA work, although different projects. Brammell’s grant will fund the use of eDNA to detect salamander species in eastern KY streams and a federally endangered frog species in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Guivas’s research involves testing the exciting possibility that eDNA may be used not just to quantify presence and absence of organisms but also determine to the number of organisms present in a particular habitat.

“The majority of my research will involve going out to creeks, collecting water samples, and making population estimates using a non-lethal capture methods (electrofishing),” Guivas said. “My hope is that we’ll be able to find a relationship between the concentration of DNA in the water samples and the population estimates made using the more traditional technique.”

Although other researchers have begun to explore this relationship, no one has investigated it in small flowing water systems.

“The grant will allow me to purchase fishing gear for the estimates and the chemical reagents necessary for eDNA work,” Guivas said. “I’ve already been working on this project for a semester, and I plan to continue doing so until I graduate in December 2018.”

Brammell referred to Guivas as an exceptional student among those he has mentored.

“Ramon has demonstrated a great deal of initiative, independence, and interest that has enabled him to make remarkable progress both in his research and his development as a young scientist. I believe he will have a remarkable career as a researcher.”

Learn more about Asbury University’s Science & Health Department.