Flowers Picture

eDNA Studies


In Ontario’s current development landscape and scale of site alteration, nearly all development projects have the potential to impact one or more Species at Risk and/or habitat used by Species at Risk. Consideration of these species is important to inform development decisions and avoid contravention of Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. Azimuth’s professionally trained ecologists have over twenty years of experience completing Species at Risk assessments and helping our clients mitigate risk.

For species such as amphibians (e.g. salamanders), reptiles (e.g. turtles, snakes), fish and mammals (e.g. bats), traditional Species at Risk field surveys typically involve detailed surveying of a site’s habitat features for evidence of the presence of a target species (e.g. visual encounters, tracks, evidence of breeding such as salamander egg masses or turtle nesting, bats emerging from old structures, acoustic monitoring) and recording observations. These surveys can be time-consuming, often requiring weeks of fieldwork and data analysis, must be completed within a specific timeframe and may involve some level of habitat disruption. Traditional field surveys that depend on physical observations can also be challenging for species that are difficult to find or occur in small numbers. Special approvals are also sometimes needed.

As part of Azimuth’s commitment to Research and Development, in collaboration with Precision Biomonitoring Inc., we have been awarded four years of funding through the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program to develop environmental DNA survey protocols for the Species at Risk Blanding’s Turtle, Redside Dace, Silver Shiner, Lake Sturgeon and Little Brown Bat. Environmental DNA is DNA shed or released into the environment (e.g. salamander gametes, skin or scales from snakes, turtles or fish, guano/feces or hair from bats) that can be used to infer the occurrence of target species by indirect sampling. Rather than depending on visual observations requiring lengthy field time, presence/absence based on environmental DNA methods can be determined with confidence by collecting biological samples following a suitable sampling design and analyzing the samples in a laboratory. For example, by collecting water samples from a wetland or vernal pool complex and conducting genetic testing, Azimuth ecologists can determine the presence/absence of Blanding’s Turtles in the wetland or Jefferson Salamanders (and their closely-related unisexuals) in the vernal pool complex. Advantages of environmental DNA include:

Non-invasive (indirect sampling of a species’ habitat rather than the species itself);

Increased survey opportunities (e.g. surveying for Species at Risk turtles in winter);

Ability to survey for multiple Species at Risk simultaneously;

Optimal sampling designs by experts;

Genetic testing that achieves highest industry standards;

Ability to complete genetic testing on-site for even faster turn-around, if desired;

Reduced field and data analysis time and no special permits required, saving time and money;

Improved accuracy and efficiency; and

Improved opportunities for difficult-to-access sites.

Azimuth provides environmental DNA services for a suite of amphibian, reptile, fish and mammal species, offering a complementary assessment method for determining presence/absence of Species at Risk. Environmental DNA methods are efficient, sensitive and can improve detection confidence. Environmental DNA represents a new frontier in environmental consulting. Currently we offer eDNA services for the following Ontario species:

Species at Risk


Blue-spotted Salamander

Jefferson Salamander and Ambystoma unisexuals


Blanding's Turtle

Wood Turtle (in development)

Spotted Turtle (in development)

Snapping Turtle (in development)


Grass Pickerel

Lake Sturgeon

Redside Dace

Silver Shiner


Little Brown Bat (in development)

Keystone Species

Brook Trout


Round Whitefish