Published on
April 21, 2023

DNA From the Air Unlocks New Opportunities for Biodiversity

NatureMetrics set to become the first company in the world to provide environmental DNA (eDNA) air sampling as a commercial service.

 min read
DNA From the Air Unlocks New Opportunities for Biodiversity

Professor Clare tests out new air DNA devices in a suspected bat roost. Follow @Dr_bat_girl on Twitter or on Mastodon for more updates throughout this project.

NatureMetrics is proud to announce that it has supported an Alliance Grant, in partnership with the Clare Lab and York University, from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Ontario Center for Innovation, to further investigate the commercial application of airborne eDNA analysis.

As the demand for biodiversity monitoring intensifies globally, fuelled by expanding regulation and government pressure, the race is on to identify more effective and scalable techniques, which can meet the diverse and challenging needs of organisations assessing their impact on the environment.

Through this grant, NatureMetrics and the Clare Lab will collaborate to develop and establish air-based biodiversity sampling technology as a new commercial offering.

Environmental DNA monitoring of aquatic systems, soils, marine sediments, and insect traps have all been well developed by NatureMetrics as a suite of expanding commercial services globally. However, the eDNA assessment of certain important species such as bats in terrestrial systems remains a challenge. The recent innovations of the Clare Lab provide a solution to this industry challenge and will drive the rapid commercialization of this globally new service. The unique skills of the Clare Lab combined with the infrastructure and deep expertise in commercial eDNA processing available at NatureMetrics will streamline the innovation required to bring this service to commercial viability.

In a previous collaboration, NatureMetrics helped to test the first applied use of airborne eDNA for ecological analysis, detecting bats and other animals living in these important roost habitats. This demonstrated the effectiveness of their airborne environmental DNA technology for use in the wild, especially for bat conservation and monitoring.

The NatureMetrics project team will now be deploying the prototype, developed by the Clare Lab, to validate a sampling strategy that accurately assesses animal communities in habitats such as roosts and caves. Using ground-based monitoring, NatureMetrics aims to provide low cost, high accuracy biodiversity data for the whole tree of life in every ecosystem, from arctic waters to tropical rainforests, and this new study aims to help NatureMetrics become the first company in the world to expand this technology to air, providing eDNA air sampling as a commercial service.

Project lead, Dr Elizabeth Clare, Assistant Professor at York University, comments: “this project represents an important next step in the evolution of eDNA application for robust biodiversity monitoring. The Clare Lab recently developed an improved sampling device for eDNA capture, demonstrating that eDNA can be filtered directly out of air samples – a tremendous new tool to monitor terrestrial biodiversity. I’m excited to be validating our approach and working with NatureMetrics to bring this valuable offering to market to serve the growing monitoring needs across the world.”

The main objective of the study will be to conduct early-stage commercial validation of the prototype under real-world field conditions in an established research site where full assessment can be achieved, for example, validating deployment and cost estimations.

Dr Natalia Ivanova, Head of Science at NatureMetrics North America, adds: “the commercial application of this technology for the monitoring of elusive and protected species such as bats has huge potential in multiple habitats and regions across the world. Up until now, eDNA monitoring has focused on water and soil samples. We are now filling the gap of eDNA collection by air – a new and simple method with vast deployment opportunity. We believe this innovation will be sought after by environmental consulting companies, conservation organisations and regulators worldwide.”

Testing in the field will begin in April 2023 with the full results set to be released in early 2024. The team hope that a commercial product could be available to customers by late 2024.

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