The lab going up in Boise, Idaho, will be part of a new, larger U.S. Geological Survey building. And it would test environmental DNA, or eDNA, from around the nation. That is, instead of trying to find an invasive animal, like a single mussel or fish in a lake, scientists could just sample water to test for DNA of certain species.

A tortoise poses in front of the camera
Benjamin Payne

Kym McDonough is in a race against the clock—the biological clock, that is, of the desert tortoise.

With fall well under way, Nevada's state reptile population is inching closer to brumation, which is the cold-blooded version of hibernation, in which tortoises hunker down in burrows to get through the cold months, occasionally rousing from their slumber on warmer winter days.