You shed DNA constantly everywhere you go… as do all other animals, plants, bacteria and fungi - we refer to this ‘shed’ DNA as environmental DNA (eDNA). Because all organisms shed DNA into their environments, ecosystem-level monitoring can take place with a single method, making eDNA an emerging frontier in conservation research. Under certain environmental conditions, eDNA may persist in sediment for hundreds of thousands of years, allowing long term observation at a broader scope than the fossil record provides. Whereas the fossil record is limited to organisms with physiology hard enough to withstand harsh conditions of the fossilization process, eDNA is unbiased in the preservation of deposited DNA. Despite the thousands of publications utilizing eDNA across many fields, several aspects of the predominant methodological approaches require further testing and optimization. By better understanding the methods used, we can improve the accuracy of our conclusions and extend upon the possible applications of eDNA.
In this talk, I will discuss 1) the methods behind and broad applications of eDNA, 2) the effects of methodological approaches on the results of a study, and 3) my own work using ancient eDNA to recreate long term local paleoecological change in the Klondike territory of Canada. This study aims to understand the speed and correlations of plant and animal communities over the past 50,000 years, spanning a time of major ecological change as a glacial bank turned to Boreal forests at the Pleistocene to Holocene transition.
Speaker: Sabrina Shirazi, UC Santa Cruz
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