Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Water samples teeming with information: Emerging techniques for environmental monitoring

30.06.2014

Setting effective conservation policies requires near real-time knowledge of environmental conditions. Scientists with Stanford's Center for Ocean Solutions propose using genetic techniques as a low-cost, quick way to collect such data.

Environmental policy must respond to ever-changing conditions on the ground and in the water, but doing so requires a constant flow of information about the living world.


Scientists are using material shed into the environment by animals to survey biological communities.

(Photo: Robert Kennedy)

In a paper published in Science this week, scientists from Stanford's Center for Ocean Solutions, the University of Washington and the University of Copenhagen propose employing emerging environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling techniques that could make assessing the biodiversity of marine ecosystems – from single-cell critters to great white sharks – as easy as taking a water sample.

Controlling invasive species and saving endangered ones are among the many applications of a new set of monitoring tools that use DNA recovered from the environment.

Although traditional sampling methods – including dive surveys and deploying sampling gear in the water – have been widely used in environmental monitoring, they are expensive, invasive and often focus only on a single species. Genetic monitoring via a form of DNA, known as eDNA, that is shed into the environment by animals could overcome some of these issues.

eDNA is like a fingerprint left at a crime scene. This material may come from metabolic waste, damaged tissue or sloughed off skin cells. Once it is collected, scientists can sequence the DNA to create a fast, high-resolution, non-invasive survey of whole biological communities.

"The eDNA work is potentially a game-changer for environmental monitoring," said Larry Crowder, a professor of biology at Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station, senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, science director at the Center for Ocean Solutions and a co-author of the study. "A number of laws require monitoring, but actually keeping tabs on large, mobile, cryptic animals is challenging and expensive."

Using DNA to inform policy

The cost of DNA sequencing is decreasing rapidly, a trend that has fueled eDNA studies in recent years.

"We wanted to know how to put these amazing new genetic tools to use," said lead author Ryan Kelly, an assistant professor at the University of Washington and a visiting fellow at the Center for Ocean Solutions. "Harnessing eDNA is a perfect example of how cutting-edge science can plug into many of the environmental laws we have on the books."

Nearly every environmental law imposes environmental monitoring obligations on government or the private sector, said Meg Caldwell, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Woods Institute and Stanford Law School, and executive director of the Center for Ocean Solutions, as well as a contributing author of the study. "Pushing the science of genomics to help society perform monitoring more cheaply and effectively is one of our core goals," she said.

The authors provide several examples of scientific-legal interactions, among them the use of eDNA to inform the enforcement of laws such as the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act with detailed, low-cost data.

So far, eDNA has been used to determine the presence or absence of certain target species. This technique is useful for detecting invasive species or changes in the distribution of endangered species. However, scientists are still evaluating how eDNA concentrations relate to specific numbers of organisms in the wild.

A challenging aspect of the approach is determining exactly where the eDNA was generated, especially in dynamic marine systems. eDNA is thought to persist in water for only a few days.

With these limitations, eDNA alone is not yet enough for policy applications, but it is already being used to supplement existing monitoring. This combination approach has recently been used in California to detect human- and animal-based pathogens in waters off state beaches.

"There is much work left to do to develop and validate this approach, but the potential is amazing," Crowder said. "We will continue to work with other scientists at the Center for Ocean Solutions and worldwide to advance and test this approach."

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation provided initial funding for the original concept of the eDNA tool, as part of its core support to the Center for Ocean Solutions, as well as additional funding to begin testing the tool in the field. A recent Environmental Venture Project grant from the Stanford Woods Institute will help researchers refine the eDNA tool.

Julia Turan is an intern at the Stanford News Service.

For more Stanford experts on environmental research and other topics, visit Stanford Experts.

Contact

Larry Crowder, Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions and Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment: (831) 402-6938, larry.crowder@stanford.edu

Jesse Port, Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions: (206) 962-1211, jport@stanford.edu

Terry Nagel, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment: (650) 498-0607, tnagel@stanford.edu

Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service: (650) 725-1944, bccarey@stanford.edu

Terry Nagel | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://news.stanford.edu/pr/2014/pr-marine-edna-monitoring-062714.html

Further reports about: DNA Environment Environmental Ocean Water animals environment

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms

25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics

25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>