Assessing a New Tool for Early Detection of Endangered Turtles on Proposed Transportation Projects

Status:  Active
Project Start Date:  08/04/2022


Transportation agencies must comply with a variety of environmental regulations, including state and federal Endangered Species Acts. Compliance with these Acts can be costly and may delay projects due to limitations related to the timing of surveys and other investigations (i.e., wildlife surveys are often limited to summer months). Innovative tools can help overcome some limitations, and potentially streamline regulatory approval processes for projects. A new tool of particular interest is the use of environmental DNA (eDNA), which can be used to determine if difficult-to-detect protected species are present within a project area. This research seeks to comprehensively evaluate eDNA as a tool for measuring and monitoring of Blanding’s and wood turtles in Minnesota. Both turtles are currently listed under the State of Minnesota's endangered species statute and have been petitioned for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Transportation projects and maintenance activities that impact habitats near documented observations of these species may be required to follow costly avoidance and minimization measures, even if turtle presence within the project area is unknown.

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