What is environmental DNA (eDNA)?
Environmental DNA (eDNA) is the pool of genetic material that can be collected from an environmental sample. eDNA is like nature’s fingerprint, which can be used to identify organisms even when they aren’t physically observed. As organisms live and navigate in their aquatic habitat, they leave behind a trail of shed cells, skin, waste, and mucus. Just a few drops of water can contain this cellular material in addition to microscopic animals, algae, viruses, and free DNA. Scientists use these genetic clues to identify this diverse cast of characters long after they’ve moved on.
Monitoring aquatic health with eDNA
MBARI’s ESP is a lab-in-a-can poised to launch eDNA as a key tool for monitoring aquatic health. Explore the interactive infographic below to learn more about what eDNA is, how the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) samples and analyzes eDNA, and how it is expanding the management toolkit in aquatic systems.
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This infographic highlights a few of the native and non-native species found in Scott Creek, a freshwater stream just north of Santa Cruz, California. MBARI researchers deployed an ESP at Scott Creek for a full year to monitor native and non-native species. The results of the study highlighted how eDNA monitoring with an autonomous platform like the ESP is a versatile and efficient tool for tracking species of interest.