Frequently Asked Questions

What is eDNA?

All organisms shed genetic material into their environment through feces, mucus and urine. This DNA is known as environmental DNA or eDNA. Just as how forensic scientists use DNA to prove presence at a crime scene, eDNA can be used to detect aquatic organisms.

What does it mean to find eDNA?

A positive result indicates that an organism of the target species was in the area recently. A negative result does not necessarily mean that no organisms are in the area, just that there was no eDNA in the sample.

What can’t eDNA tell us?

At the technology’s current level, eDNA cannot quantify the number of organisms in the area. It also cannot give real-time information on the organism’s location, or where it originated from. Environmental DNA is currently only useful for presence/absence studies.

What can eDNA be used for?

Environmental DNA can be applied toward any project that seeks to know if a species is present or absent. Please see our applications page for more information.

How can eDNA be used to help stop invasive species?

Locating species that are low in abundance proves difficult and requires the costly escalation of efforts to increase detection probability. Environmental DNA, however, uses a more sensitive forensics approach to find species ‘sight unseen,’ enabling the early detection of invasion fronts.

Why is early detection so important?

eDNA surveillance provides an early-warning indication of species presence, allowing agencies to bring more resources to bear in prevention and containment instead of wasting time and resources in localization and tracking. Studies have shown that invasive species are easier to eliminate in the early stages of invasive instead of after they have established in an area.

Credits: IN-DNR photos by Frank Oliver