Biology Professor Elizabeth Clare's research on airborne environmental DNA (eDNA) is one of the winners of the 2023 Gizmodo Science Fair. Her work has shown that eDNA collected from air can be used to detect a wide range of animal species and offers a novel, non-invasive approach to monitoring biodiversity.
In a study conducted in Hamerton Zoo Park (UK), Clare’s team used sensitive filters attached to vacuum pumps to collect more than 70 air samples from different locations around the zoo, both inside animal sleeping areas and outside in the general zoo environment.
“When we analyzed the collected samples, we were able to identify DNA from 25 different species of animals, such as tigers, lemurs and dingoes, 17 of which were known zoo species. We were even able to collect eDNA from animals that were hundreds of metres away from where we were testing without a significant drop in the concentration, and even from outside sealed buildings. The animals were inside, but their DNA was escaping,” says Clare.