DNA trails leading to better environmental monitoring

In 2016, academics from Imperial’s Faculty of Natural Sciences began working with the UK’s leading ecology consultancy Thomson Ecology. 

The collaboration pivots on improving the application of environmental DNA (eDNA).  These are the traces of genetic material all animals leave behind as they go about their day to day lives and which can remain from between a few weeks in water to a few centuries in soil. 

Thomson Ecology have been specifically interested in creating protocols to assess whether different areas are home to key protected species and have begun their partnership working with Imperial academics to find innovative ways to track great crested newts using eDNA protocols. 

As well as investigating key protected species for conservation, the team are looking at using eDNA for biosecurity as an identifier of invasive species.  Ultimately the researchers hope to be able to use eDNA to profile entire ecosystems using a markedly more cost-effective and less resource-intensive technique than traditional tracking methods. 

Newts