FishTracker is BACK!

The FishTracker program is resuming shipment of eDNA collection kits to teachers in New York. FishTracker kits can once again be requested using the online reservation system.

To minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission, the boxes and equipment used in FishTracker kits are wiped down with disinfectant before shipment, and again upon return to Cornell. Our protocols for packing and shipping disposables minimize handling, and kits are assembled  by staff wearing gloves, a lab coat, and a face mask.

Recommendations for sampling in the era of COVID-19 – take hand sanitizer with you!

All COVID-related local and school recommendations should be observed when using the FishTracker kits. The following suggestions specifically relate to the use of FishTracker materials for the collection and processing of water samples and are not meant to replace or negate existing school protocols.

Working outdoors reduces COVID risk.  Virus particles are diluted in a large volume of air, so collecting and processing water on site when it is possible to do so safely may be a useful option.

If student collection of samples is not feasible, teachers can collect water samples, record GPS readings, store samples overnight in the refrigerator (NOT frozen), and bring them into the classroom for processing the next morning.

Students should not share equipment between groups.  Each site requires collection at 3 points. FishTracker provides 3 separate sets of equipment for each site.  Each set should be  used only once by one group of students and then returned.

Students should stay in their groups.  (Note that if members of the same household or already- interacting student group are participating, they are good choices for a collection team.)

Students should wear masks.

Students should use hand sanitizer before and after using the equipment.  Before, because they may touch something that is then touched by another student.  After, to protect against picking up virus from the equipment during use, in spite of using hand sanitizer prior to collection and/or processing.

Distance should be maintained whenever possible.  However, there will be brief periods when it’s not possible to maintain 6-foot distancing, as when students are cooperating to use a pump  for water filtration.  The use of masks and hand sanitizer is especially important during these activities, and students should be encouraged to maintain as much distance between them as possible when prepping the samples.

Don’t worry about careful cleaning of equipment before shipping it back.  A quick rinse and dry is fine.  Returned equipment is decontaminated upon return to Cornell.

We’re suspending kit shipments

Although there are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tompkins County, to minimize the community spread of the virus, after spring break (March 28-April 5) Cornell University is transitioning to all online instruction for the rest of the semester. All undergraduate students and many professional degree students will be required to leave campus at the start of spring break and to remain at their permanent home residence, completing their semesters remotely. Cornell is also implementing further enhanced international travel restrictions, updated event and campus visitor policies, and enhanced cleaning procedures for university facilities.

In light of the rapidly growing incidence of COVID-19 around the country, and as part of the campus wide response to the potential COVID-19 threat, the FishTracker program will temporarily suspend all shipments of kits and materials starting March 16, 2020 and continuing until the COVID-19 situation is resolved. Although the risk of potential surface transmission of COVID-19 is very low, temporarily suspending the program will eliminate the possibility of lateral transfer of the virus on equipment and materials shared among students, teachers, and FishTracker staff.

The Cornell campus remains open, and we ask that teachers return kits that previously shipped as soon as classroom use is completed. Upon return, all FishTracker materials will be disinfected and stored until the program resumes when the COVID-19 threat is over. Please check our website for updates. We will also contact those on our e-mail list when we resume shipment of FishTracker kits.

We apologize for any inconvenience this interruption of service may cause. Please feel free to contact us if you have specific questions. We will continue to carefully monitor the COVID-19 situation, and we look forward to working with you again after this health crisis has passed. Be safe and stay healthy.

We’re testing for more species!

We are now testing for three native species that are either endangered or threatened: the Atlantic sturgeon, the lake sturgeon, and the shortnose sturgeon.

RIght now, we’re running qPCR on the samples from previous years and will also test the new samples from the upcoming spring. Maps of the results will be posted as soon as possible.

Changes to the eDNA testing display

We have changed the eDNA maps. The live maps are no longer displayed; instead, a picture links to its Google Map. This should improve page loading times, especially as we test new species.

We have also added a map layer on all maps showing the watersheds. This map is derived from the National Hydrography Dataset and merged into the 18 NYS DEC main watershed areas.