MBARI scientists are using genetics—the study of genes and how traits are passed from one generation to the next—to identify species, study how life evolved and adapted in the ocean, and monitor ecosystem health.

Genetic studies provide valuable insight into the diversity of life on Earth. Researchers can leverage DNA to identify organisms that are challenging to collect. But more importantly, genetics can also improve our understanding of the ecology of aquatic environments and provide a more complete picture of the health of aquatic ecosystems. This work also lays the foundation for reading genetic fingerprints across the tree of life using environmental DNA (eDNA), the pool of genetic material collected in a water sample. These efforts are critical to monitoring ecosystem health and are changing our view of biological communities.

These teams and projects are using genetics to study the ecology of various aquatic communities and habitats.

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