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Environmental DNA

The focus on environmental DNA has led to a new approach to monitoring species in freshwater environments. The technique is based on the fact that all animals that live in water leave DNA behind via their feces, urine or skin cells. This external DNA is called environmental DNA (eDNA ). By taking water samples and analyzing them for eDNA, it is possible to show the presence of a species without actually needing to catch individuals or even see them. For a detailed description of the method, click here

The great advantage of using the environmental DNA technique is that generally the chance of detecting a species is higher than with traditional surveying techniques, such as visual observation, electro-fishing, dip-netting or using fykes. Moreover, it costs much less time and effort (and therefore much less money) to confirm the presence of a species or generate a list of species. To find out the many other advantages of the method, click here.

RAVON (Reptile, Amphibian and Fish Conservation Netherlands) works closely with the French research institute SPYGEN, one of the leading laboratories in the world in the field of environmental DNA. SPYGEN was founded as a spinoff of the research group that first described the environmental DNA approach in 2008. The Dutch Mammal Society and Dutch Butterfly Conservation joined the consortium in 2012. Together we are carrying out research into new applications of the method to other species such as the Green Hawker dragonfly (Aeshna viridis) and the Root Vole (Microtus oeconomus). We are also looking into optimizing various sampling methods, estimating species densities with eDNA and methods for generating entire species lists from eDNA samples. 

In 2014 RAVON, SPYGEN, LECA and the University of Copenhagen published an extensive review on the application of environmental DNA for species detection. This review can be downloaded on the right side of this page. 

If you are interested in the method and would like to know what we can offer to your organization, please feel free to contact RAVON (click here).