Professor, graduate coauthor publication on DNA-based detection of brook trout in streams

Dec 14, 2016 | News

Research conducted by Paul Smith’s College biology professor Dr. Lee Ann Sporn and fisheries and wildlife science graduate Jacob Ball was part of a study published in the journal Transactions of the American Fisheries Society this December.

The study, “Efficacy of Environmental DNA to Detect and Quantify Brook Trout Populations in Headwater Streams of the Adirondack Mountains, New York,” focused on using environmental DNA, or eDNA, to determine if a fish species—in this case, brook trout—are present in a stream by using a single water sample.

In the 40 streams studied in the Adirondacks, the method predicted whether or not the fish were present with about 90 percent accuracy.

“One of the obvious first steps in conservation efforts is knowing where the species of interest are found,” said Sporn. “This study will aid in conservation of fishes in the Adirondacks and elsewhere as the effects of human impact on our environment escalates.”

The study was a featured story in the journal and has received attention nationwide after determining eDNA to be an effective tool in monitoring aquatic habitats.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) carried out the fieldwork, which consisted of both extensive surveillance to determine if brook trout were present and collecting water samples. The water samples were then analyzed using the molecular biology facilities at the Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI) laboratory by Sporn and Ball.

“I was thrilled that the AWI was asked to partner with the USGS to conduct this study,” added Sporn. “It puts Paul Smith’s College on the map as a place where innovative molecular technology to support conservation efforts is developed and applied.”

Work was funded by a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and made possible by the AWI.

The article, authored by Barry P. Baldigo, Sporn, Ball, and Scott D. George, was published by Taylor & Francis and can be read in full online at

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