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Poster: Monitoring kororā/little blue penguin populations on the Banks Peninsula using a portable MinION sequencing device

Lucy A. Howell1, Michelle LaRue2, Tammy E. Steeves1, Sarah P. Flanagan1

1School of Biological Sciences, Te Whare Whare Wānanga o Waitaha, University of Canterbury

2Gateway Antarctica, School of Earth and Environment, Te Whare Whare Wānanga o Waitaha, University of Canterbury

New Zealand’s unique birdlife is experiencing increasing pressure through the disturbance of critical environments and predation by introduced mammals. Even species of least concern are often dependent on the continued efforts of conservation groups. One such species is the kororā/little blue penguin (Eudyptula minor), the smallest of the world’s penguin species. Found across New Zealand and Southern Australia, the population in the Canterbury region is unique due to the presence of the white-flippered morphotype. Local efforts to monitor the charismatic species are often time and labour intensive, and genetic analysis is invasive. With increasing research in the application of eDNA to the field of population genetics, I will discuss the potential of portable nanopore sequencing for monitoring kororā populations using the MinION device (Oxford Nanopore Technologies). I will then highlight the challenges that arose during our pilot study on a group of rescue kororā at the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch, where we sequenced feather and tank water samples using universal marine vertebrate MarVer3 primers, targeting a region of the 16s gene. I will compare preliminary data on Sanger and MinION sequencing technologies for sequencing multiple individuals using potentially degraded eDNA samples; and discuss the sensitivity of MinION sequencing for detecting our target species, kororā in our captive population samples. I will highlight the future direction of our research as we consider the opportunities portable eDNA sequencing presents for informing the conservation management of the Banks Peninsula Kororā population.