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Til bevillingsoversigt

Building an environmental DNA research facility

The Carlsberg Foundation Distinguished Fellowships

What

This project will establish an environmental DNA (eDNA) research facility focused on studying genetic diversity and community compositions along environmental and latitudinal gradients from several types of samples. Using the most novel advancements in DNA sequencing, the main aim is to examine what environmental drivers correlate with biodiversity patterns across latitude in order to propose explanations for the patterns, while including the rare taxa that we know least about. The project will also study the nature of DNA in the environment in terms of degradation, transport, temporal turnover, particle adsorption, and cell size fractions in order to obtain fundamental understanding of the origin, state and transport of DNA in the environment.

Why

The way we obtain data on the natural world is radically changing due to fast advancements of DNA sequencing technology, and researchers must be at the forefront of new means for studying nature. This is especially relevant given the current biodiversity crisis resulting from environmental change. Meanwhile, approximately 90% of Earth ́s biodiversity is undescribed, and we only have limited knowledge of the described. Environmental DNA is an efficient approach that can be applied regardless of whether species have been described, and could thus retrieve information on the unknown parts of biodiversity. Hence, focusing on genetic diversity rather than traditional morphological approaches, practically overcomes the gap in our knowledge of life on Earth due to the universal DNA code.

How

Environmental DNA will be obtained from various sources of complex samples including water, soil, plants and faecal samples, collected along latitudinal gradients through a network of collaborators. Samples will be analysed using a tree-of-life eDNA approach applying the most novel techniques of next-generation sequencing, e.g. Illumina and Oxford Nanopore. Environmental DNA results will be analysed in relation to environmental variables to test fundamental assumptions on the distribution of biodiversity, including taxa we know very little about. Controlled experiments will be set up to study the nature of DNA in the environment, and we will establish a state-of-the-art laboratory facility as a framework for eDNA research.

SSR

The global decline of biodiversity remains one of the greatest challenges facing our Planet, and efficient monitoring techniques are important to document these changes. Universal eDNA approaches developed under this project can provide valuable resources for societies around the world as a tool for documenting and monitoring biodiversity under change. This can make global societal impact related directly to the European Union goal of halting biodiversity loss and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on Life Below Water and Life on Land. Furthermore, several researchers working within genetic approaches in biology will consider eDNA for addressing their fundamental and applied research questions using non-invasive genetic sampling.