Frequently Asked Questions
1. What services do you offer? Accordion Closed
- Our most popular service is an analysis of your bat community that allows us to identify multiple bat species from a sample of guano (Walker et al. 2016). You collect about 200 guano pellets in a single vial and we use next generation sequencing to characterize all the bat species that contributed to that sample. We have found that 200 pellets (~1-2 grams) can identify all bats even if one pellet in that mixture came from a different species. We recommend that a second pooled guano sample be analyzed for important roosts to ensure that all species are detected (Walker et al. 2019).
- We commonly apply the same metabarcoding approach to a broad range of taxa to determine diet. We have examined the diet of everything from pronghorn to wombats to African lions.
- We apply genetic analyses to identify carcasses and for confirmation of a visual or historic ID. For bats, sample types can include single guano pellets, wing swabs, buccal swabs, decomposed carcasses, wing punches, or hair. This has been useful for wind energy facilities, environmental consultancies, and agencies testing for the presence of rare species.
- We develop and perform DNA metabarcoding and qPCR assays to detect bats and other taxa from water sources, soil, and vegetation.
- We screen for white-nose syndrome fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans) in guano via the standard qPCR assay (Muller et al. 2013).
2. How much does it cost? Accordion Closed
- Community-level (“pooled”) analysis is $350/pooled sample.
- Single-bat ID analysis costs $150 per sample.
- White-nose fungus test is $40/sample.
- Contact us for bulk pricing.
- Minimum sample sizes are 6 pooled samples or 10 single samples.
- Sampling kits include vials with a DNA preservative. They cost $20 per 15 mL vial (for pooled samples) and $3 per 2 mL vial (for single pellets or other sample types).
- We accept credit card, cash, check, purchase order.
3. How do I collect samples? Accordion Closed
- Our sampling kits for guano and other tissues include vials containing a liquid salt-based DNA stabilizer that performs well under field conditions and is safe for air transport. We offer the stabilizer in 15mL vials for community analysis and 1.5mL vials for single-species analysis, and provide a feces sampling protocol. We assess sterility before shipping.
4. Can you test guano for Pd (the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome)? Accordion Closed
- Yes, we will screen samples you send to us using standard protocols and charge $35 per test.
5. What is the benefit of processing our samples through your lab? Accordion Closed
- We are a team of wildlife ecologists, geneticists, and bioinformaticians who developed Species from Feces as a part of our mission to promote wildlife conservation, assist managers, and make science available in a useful way. We attempt to translate rapidly advancing technologies to benefit bats and other wildlife species. We have access to a variety of sequencers, from capillary to Illumina platforms. Our team has expertise in troubleshooting PCR chemistry, which ensures that you get the best quality data from your samples.
- One of the most important things we do is communicate our work. It is our pleasure to explain our methods and results so you can be comfortable with them. Our detailed reports have been used for management and research, and have been part of wildlife presentations, reports, theses, dissertations, technical publications, and peer-reviewed papers.
6. How old can my samples be? Accordion Closed
- In an experiment that followed guano of known age for 2.5 years in caves of differing humidity, we found that humidity is more damaging to DNA than time (Walker et al. 2019). In practice, we have had success with old-appearing, highly processed samples, but recommend that feces be collected as fresh as possible to ensure that we recover adequate DNA for sequencing. See our limits of detection experiment to see how we identified bat assemblages even from commercial bat guano fertilizer and soil. We have not succeeded with guano covered in mold.
7. Is the species from feces assay useful for environmental DNA (eDNA)? Accordion Closed
- Yes, if DNA is present in your sample, then the assay is useful. Environmental DNA is a challenge because it relies on a combination of your sampling strategy and some existing knowledge that your taxon of interest is depositing cellular debris into the source of interest. For water, genetic material must be captured and concentrated on a filter with a sufficient volume of filtrate, or placed directly into a storage buffer.
- We have identified bat species from soil, water, flowers, and air.
- If you wish to use our Species from Feces DNA metabarcoding assay, we recommend trying a few exploratory samples to start. Contact us to discuss appropriate methods. Otherwise, we are happy to develop a qPCR assay for your species of interest.
8. What sample types can you get species ID with? Accordion Closed
- We can identify species from a variety of sources including non-invasive and minimally-invasive samples, and that is what makes the Species from Feces assay useful. As a rule of thumb, the closer the sample’s relationship to the original bat, the more likely we can acquire sufficient DNA yield for species ID. Here are some sample types from which we identified bat species:
- Skin swab
- Wing punch
- Decomposed, external tissue
- Buccal swabs
- Internal tissues (e.g., heart, liver)
*Please see question above
9. Can you identify subspecies? Accordion Closed
- We are actively exploring this, and it is likely that genetic markers other than cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) will be more useful in discriminating between most subspecies as well as those species that are recently divergent, such as some Myotis species in North America (see next question). We would be happy to work with you if you are interested in helping develop these tests.
10. Can you differentiate North American Myotis? Accordion Closed
- North American Myotis are the most at risk for white-nose syndrome; we can identify most Myotis to the species level. They have interesting evolutionary patterns stemming from the last ice age, so there are a small number of species complexes that cannot be differentiated using the COI barcode. Recent evolutionary divergence means they are not genetically differentiated at this marker or the genetic variation that exists is not definitive for species-level discrimination, even if the bats look different. We can identify them if the pair is geographically distant from one another. If a pair lives within the same geographic area, we identify them as sympatric complexes and will present the result as such along with its member species. Here is a list of North American species that share a DNA barcode AND are sympatric in some areas:
- Myotis californicus – ciliolabrum – (melanorhinus; species designation questioned)
- Myotis thysanodes – evotis
- Myotis lucifugus – occultus
We are exploring other genetic tests for M. thysanodes and M. evotis, which may also resolve between the subspecies M. lucifugus lucifugus, M. l. carissima, and M. l. alascensis.
Here is a list of the Myotis species we can individually resolve with COI:
- Myotis velifer
- Myotis auriculus
- Myotis lucifugus
- Myotis occultus
- Myotis septentrionalis
- Myotis volans
- Myotis keenii
- Myotis yumanensis
- Myotis leibii
- Myotis austroriparius
- Myotis grisescens
- Myotis sodalis
11. How soon will I have my results? Accordion Closed
- Single-sample analysis generally takes 2 to 4 weeks
- Community-level analysis usually takes 2 months
- These times vary based on sample quality and sequencer logistics. We share sequencers with other teams at a core facility. We aim to generate results as quickly as possible, but this is a complex process and delays do sometimes occur.
12. How much fecal material should I sample? Accordion Closed
- For bats, our collection vials can hold about 200 fecal pellets each, so we recommend collecting roughly this number of pellets from around your roost of interest.
- For ungulates we recommend 4 fecal pellets per vial.
13. What is the best way to preserve my samples? Accordion Closed
- The best approach to sampling guano is to preserve your samples in a salt-based DNA stabilizer that we provide in collection vials at minimal cost. Suspending samples in this mixture also helps us homogenize the pellets to increase our chances of detecting multiple species.
- Please contact us for a kit.
14. Will you try novel or unique applications for species from feces? Accordion Closed
- Yes! We’re happy to try new applications. For instance, we discovered that we can identify bat species from commercial guano fertilizer, from soil below roosts, and from the same wing swabs used to test for white-nose syndrome.