State Fellow Spotlight — Kyle Neumann

Jesse Gordon contributed to this story

Kyle Neumann is an Alaska Sea Grant State Fellow with the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center Genetics Program in Juneau.  He is working to develop new technologies that will allow for autonomous collection of environmental DNA (eDNA) samples. 

Kyle explained that the genetics lab is developing “eDNA sampling robots that can be programmed to filter water and preserve samples in the field.” 

Man with computer and electronic equipment
Kyle Neumann works on the eDNA sampler. Photo by Wes Larson.

Alaska’s extensive coastline makes it challenging to collect data at the frequency and range that scientists need, so the hope is that these new devices will improve sampling of important species in remote locations. “Ideally, we will be able to deploy these devices in regions like the Bering Sea where there is a concern about the health of fisheries, fish movement, and range shifts due to climate change,” said Kyle.

A self-described avid tinkerer, Kyle enjoys developing open-source equipment that reduces the cost of scientific research. He earned a BS in bioresource research with a minor in chemistry from Oregon State University, and has worked as a video systems engineer and consultant, designing and building custom underwater scientific and camera equipment. 

As a graduate student at the University of California Santa Barbara, Kyle’s PhD research involved the development of water sampling equipment for water chemistry and microbial analysis. He studied how streams impact nutrient dynamics along the coast of Mo’orea in French Polynesia.  The project examined how different types of land use such as agriculture, housing and resort development might affect stream pollution and impact coral reef ecosystems. 

One thing Kyle hopes to get out of his fellowship experience is the chance to experience the role of federal agencies in marine research. He has experience in academia, as well as with nonprofits and the private sector, and appreciates the chance to apply his skills within an agency. “There are differences in scale, approaches, goals and motivations among different sectors of research. I’m excited to explore the agency side of oceanographic research.” 

Wes Larson, Program Manager at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center added, “Kyle’s engineering experience has been a major asset on this project and we are excited about his progress developing an eDNA autosampler.”