eDNA Update

Asian Carp eDNA Update

The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC) continues to use Environmental DNA (eDNA) testing as an early indicator of possible carp presence and as a tool to steer efforts to stop the spread of these species into the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS).  Sampling, which has now been suspended for the winter season due to waterway conditions, has returned very low numbers of positive results above the electric barrier in the CAWS. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) now has the ability to process 120 eDNA samples per week.  Since October 2010, USACE has processed 1,268 samples above the electric barriers for both bighead and silver carp.  These samples have returned 1,251 negative results and only 17 positive results for Asian carp eDNA.

Between August 2009 and June 2010, Notre Dame researchers, under a USACE cooperative agreement, processed 2,232 samples above the electric barriers for both species of carp.  These samples returned 2,172 negative results and only 60 positive results for Asian carp eDNA.

Background on eDNA

A positive eDNA hit does not necessarily indicate the presence of a live carp.  At present, eDNA evidence cannot verify whether live Asian carp are present, whether the DNA may have come from a dead fish, or whether water containing Asian carp DNA may have been transported from other sources, such as bilge water.  The USACE Engineering Research and Development Center plans to undertake studies to refine the use of eDNA and enhance its utility in this effort.

Under the 2011 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework released in December 2010, additional eDNA analysis and refinement efforts will be examined, including:

·         Continued eDNA monitoring of the CAWS;

·         eDNA calibration and increased efficiency; and

·         Development of eDNA genetic markers.

eDNA testing is useful as a potential early indicator of Asian carp presence.  However, as there remain many uncertainties about what a positive eDNA sample indicates, its usefulness is limited, and there are many other tools we are employing to ensure we are tracking and combating the advancement of Asian carp.

This comprehensive approach includes electro-fishing, netting, the construction of a third electric barrier, and the construction of fencing to prevent carp from crossing between waterways, among dozens of other measures.

Please see the 2011 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework to learn more about the actions underway to combat Asian carp.            

To view the USACE sampling results, please visit:  


To download a USACE fact sheet on eDNA, click on the image below.




You can also download the
USACE eDNA Quality Assurance Project Plan