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.

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