Environmental DNA and its Bioinformatics Component

By: Anurag Jakkula

When organisms move through their habitats, vital and powerful information is left behind. This information can tell us the organism’s past, present, and future. This highly valuable data comes in the form of environmental DNA or eDNA. Environmental DNA has a bright, influential future in the fields of environmental science, paleontology, agriculture, public health, and ecology.

Environmental DNA’s scope has been proven several times with huge breakthroughs in science and conservation. First off, environmental DNA allows humans to study animal species in the least invasive way possible. In a particular study, 93 days of electrofishing effort was put into finding a single specimen of a rare species of fish. However, it only took 4 hours to detect a specimen with the help of eDNA. Recently, the Wildlife Conservation Society used eDNA to discover the fourth known living Rafetus Swinhoei. The Rafetus Swinhoei is the world’s rarest turtle.

Environmental DNA is also a huge component of environmental conservation. Conservationists don’t need to disturb nature in order to help it anymore. Using eDNA, conservationists can determine the growth and decline in animal populations without having to trap and tag animals. This can be done by measuring the quantity of DNA, relative to the organism’s rate of DNA shedding and environment. Furthermore, the abundance of invasive species can be measured in the same way.