Environmental DNA Expeditions in UNESCO World Heritage Marine Sites
Environmental DNA Expeditions is a global, citizen science initiative that will help measure marine biodiversity, and the impacts climate change might have on the distribution patterns of marine life, across UNESCO World Heritage marine sites.
What is environmental DNA?
Ocean species shed DNA into the water around them. The genetic material from waste, mucus or cells in one liter of water can determine the species richness in a given area, without the need to actually extract organisms from their environment.
The cost effective, ethical nature of eDNA sampling has the potential to revolutionize knowledge about ecosystems and species diversity and to inspire the next generation of ocean researchers.
eDNA sampling campaigns will be organized across 25 UNESCO World Heritage marine sites between September 2022 and April 2023. The results are expected to provide a one-off biodiversity snapshot, with focus on fish and megavertebrates of which several are on the IUCN Red List vulnerable and endangered species.
Combined with ocean warming projected scenarios, an analysis will be made how climate change is affecting the world’s most exceptional marine biodiversity.
eDNA expeditions is a citizen science initiative that empowers local communities to sample their World Heritage sites with cutting edge eDNA methods.
Across the globe, site managers will lead the work with local citizens taking water samples, filtering and fixing the DNA. Samples will be sequenced in a central laboratory.
A central part of the initiative is to move eDNA sampling and sequencing toward a more standardized approach and secure open access for the resulting data.
By sharing the initiative’s methods as well as the data, the initiative aims to refine protocols for marine citizen-science sampling and benefit the global research community. Data will be openly available on the UNESCO Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS) (implemented by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission/IODE).
Environmental DNA at UNESCO
Sampling protocols, analysis techniques and resulting data will be openly available at the OBIS webpages
Local citizens and youth will undertake eDNA sampling, inspiring the next generations of ocean scientists
Sampling results will help sites to adapt decision-making as marine biodiversity evolves in a warming climate
Bringing together the best of eDNA will help improve data comparability and equitable benefit sharing.
Senior Principal Research Scientist at the Natural History Museum and Institute, Japan
Dr. Masaki Miya studies ecological aspects of fish diversity, metabarcoding and eDNA primers.
Scientific researcher in the Marine and Coastal Research Institute, Colombia
Vanessa Yepes-Narvaez has experience in marine taxonomy and public engagement projects.
Science Leader and Director of the CSIRO Australian National Fish Collection, Australia
Bruce Deagle develops eDNA tools to study marine trophic interactions and marine biodiversity.
University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
Professor Sophie von der Heyden studies the applicability of molecular ecological and genomics tools.
Francisco Chavez studies how climate variability and change impact ocean ecosystems.
Principal Researcher at EcoDNA, University of Canberra, Australia
Professor Dianne Gleeson applies eDNA technologies in both biosecurity and biodiversity.
Associate Professor at Deakin University, Australia
Craig Sherman applies ecological and environmental genetics to address fundamental questions.
Researcher at the Marine and Coastal Research Institute, Colombia
Giomar Helena Borrero Pérez uses environmental DNA to study Colombia's marine biodiversity.
Executive Director of EMBRC-ERIC, France
Nicolas Pade, PhD, uses molecular tools and satellite tracking to determine population genetic structure.
NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, USA
Dr. Kelly Goodwin is an environmental molecular microbiologist and chairs the NOAA Omics Working Group.
PhD fellow at Copenhagen University, Denmark
Ole Bjørn Brodnicke investigates changes in the cryptobenthic community on coral reefs in response to climate change.
Senior researcher at AZTI, Spain
Dr. Naiara Rodríguez-Ezpeleta applies genetics and genomics to marine environment management and conservation.
Senior scientist at the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), Switzerland
Pascal Hablützel, PhD, uses eDNA techniques to study marine planktonic life and detect invasive species.
Programme Officer, Common Wadden Sea Secretariat
Dr. Julia Busch works at the central office for the trilateral UNESCO Wadden Sea World Heritage site and has ample experience in marine citizen science projects.
Professor in population genetics at The Arctic University, Norway
Dr. Kim Præbel develops eDNA techniques for the conservation and revelation of biodiversity.
Dr. Hugo Gante uses and develops eDNA techniques to study biodiversity.