Science for Decision Making on Uranium Mining in Arizona

Environmental DNA at Mine and at Reference Locations

At Pinenut Mine

Metabarcoding of environmental DNA (eDNA) is a powerful new technology for identifying species by genetic traces left in water. Beginning in 2015, eDNA metabarcoding was tested alongside traditional wildlife surveys to examine the potential use of uranium mine containment ponds as water sources by wildlife. Surface-water samples were collected near several breccia pipe mines and analyzed for eDNA.

The most common species identified by eDNA were cattle, human, and spadefoot toad, which are all known to be abundant in the area1. However, one species identified by eDNA, tiger salamander, was not identified by traditional surveys. The tiger salamander is nocturnal and does not vocalize, so unlike many other amphibians, cannot be identified by sound surveys. These results demonstrate that eDNA metabarcoding can contribute novel information to species surveys.

Results from this study will help improve the utility of eDNA metabarcoding for wildlife surveys and contribute to a better understanding of the biodiversity potentially impacted by mining activities.


  • Analyze samples collected quarterly for a time course of species occurrence at surface waters near mining activity.



Specific Tasks

Task 7a: Conduct species surveys


1 Klymus, K.E., Richter, C.A., Thompson, N., and Hinck, J.E., 2017, Metabarcoding of Environmental DNA Samples to Explore the Use of Uranium Mine Containment Ponds as a Water Source for Wildlife: Diversity 2017, v. 9, no. 4.

Principal Investigators

Cathy Richter
Molecular Biologist
Columbia Environmental Research Center


Mizzou little logo University of Missouri

Photo Gallery

Decontaminating lab for eDNA analysis

Pinenut Mine Gallery

Sites with Related Activities

Arizona 1 || Little Robinson