Environmental health monitoring would benefit from eDNA biobanking

July 18th, 2018

Simon Jarman, Oliver Berry (Environomics FSP Leader) and Michael Bunce recently penned an article about the need for an environmental DNA (eDNA) biobank.

With the advancement of DNA sequencing technology, biomonitoring with environmental DNA (“eDNA”) is revolutionizing biodiversity assessments. Conventionally, characterizing biodiversity requires time-consuming surveys and expert knowledge. However, researchers can now identify organisms without capturing or seeing them from DNA fragments they leave behind in substrates such as soil, water and even air. However, the rapid growth of DNA sequencing technology has brought with it some problems. At this stage, there are no standards that allow eDNA datasets generated by different technologies to be compared. This means detecting environmental change through time is difficult.

The authors propose that eDNA biobanking – centralized, databased and carefully archived environmental DNA samples – is a solution to the problem. Read their original article in Nature, Ecology and Evolution or their follow-up piece published in The Conversation.

A complicated table listing different types of scientific procedures for analysing DNA on the left and showing how many studies have used this technique on the right side.

a figure showing the increase in the number and diversity of eDNA metabarcoding studies between the years of 2005 and 2017.

Fig. 1 | Increase in number and diversity of eDNA metabarcoding studies.