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USGS Partners With USD on Rare Dragonfly

Hugh Britten USD researcher Hugh Britten views a Hine's emerald dragonfly larvae under the microscope.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of the Interior's U.S. Geological Survey has awarded a $52,561 cooperative agreement to the University of South Dakota for the development of environmental DNA (eDNA) techniques to detect the endangered Hine's emerald dragonfly.

USGS said the only federally listed endangered dragonfly occurs within a limited range of isolated areas in the Midwestern United States and Canada. Locating its habitat is difficult, and verifying breeding habitat can be time consuming and cost prohibitive. Those challenges present serious problems for resolving regulatory issues or directing specific habitat management, the USGS said in a news release.

Hugh Britten, Ph.D., USD biology professor and principal investigator on the project, said his work will involve a series of laboratory tests at USD followed by sampling water from potential habitat areas for Hine’s emerald dragonfly larvae and testing the water for the presence of the dragonfly’s DNA. The eDNA test is extremely specific to the Hine’s emerald dragonfly so that any detection of the dragonfly’s DNA in the sampled water where the dragonfly larvae are suspected to live will indicate its presence nearby. This will greatly reduce the field sampling effort.

This work is being conducted in collaboration with geneticists at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center and ecologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chicago Ecological Services Office. USD biology professor Dan Soluk, Ph.D., is the co-principal investigator on the project.

Download a photo: USD researcher Hugh Britten views a Hine's emerald dragonfly larvae under the microscope.


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News