Through eDNA, a sample of seawater can yield information about who is living in nearby waters. (graphic: Kelly Lance)
By sampling eDNA, scientists can gather information about what species are in nearby waters. (graphic: Kelly Lance)

Marine plants and animals leave behind tiny markers of their presence, often in the form of skin cells that have been shed, damaged tissues, or waste products – and within that lies their signature DNA. From a sample of seawater, scientists can read that eDNA — that is, environmental DNA — and paint a picture of species diversity in specific ocean ecosystems, determine whether or not invasive species have landed in local waters, and even sharpen their ability to monitor ecosystem changes as is often required by law. Led by School of Marine and Environmental Affairs assistant professor Ryan Kelly, a team of scientists published their findings on June 27 in Science on this emerging method and its potential for marine management, monitoring, and ecology.

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