The Raccoon Creek watershed is one of the most biodiverse waterways in the state of Georgia and is part of the Coosa River basin. Land acquisitions by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR) and Paulding County have placed over 50% of the watershed located in Paulding County into protected status. Despite its uniqueness, the community is largely unaware of this amazing ecosystem. The use of environmental DNA (eDNA) is a molecular technique with numerous environmental and ecological applications. This form of DNA is released from organisms into their environment and can be found in the form of mucus, shedded skin cells, feces, and carcasses. This form of DNA has been used successfully in other studies to detect and monitor populations of aquatic organisms. In this project we will use eDNA to sample and monitor endemic species within the watershed.
Students will use environmental DNA (eDNA) to monitor populations of endangered and threatened species located within the Raccoon Creek watershed of Paulding County (Dallas, GA). Initially, a minimum of 100 students will have an opportunity to work directly with several community partners to study the biodiversity and environmental significance of this prominent waterway. However, this project proposal represents the first step in a large-scale partnership. Thus, this project would eventually benefit the entire Paulding county community. The mini-grant will be used to purchase supplies and reagents needed to perform eDNA analyses and would also greatly defray the cost of other monitoring equipment needed for the start of this project. The equipment and eDNA samples will be used in successive years and would therefore benefit additional students in the future. The overall goal of this project is to provide students with an authentic learning experience with real-world applications.