Environmental DNA (eDNA) refers to DNA that can be extracted from environmental samples. eDNA is allowing conservationist and researchers to detect the DNA of species in soil and in water, and now two teenagers have invented a way to extract it from the air as well.
The teens reasoned that if birds shed debris when kept in cages, and when they flew, they might be able to detect their DNA in the air. They reasoned that if they could detect bird DNA in the air it would be particularly helpful for detecting hard to spot birds, such as nocturnal species, and species with low population densities.
Together they designed and built a device that attaches to trees, and pulls in air, which is then bubbled through a liquid that helps to collect DNA. The collected samples were then taken back to the student’s school, where they extracted eDNA to determine which birds had flown by.
While this device is still early in its testing phase and has been tested to detect only a few species of birds, the creators believe the device has promise for detecting endangered species. The device would provide a valuable resource for conservationists and researchers, and allow them to detect rare and endangered birds, even if they never actually see them.
Source: Science News for Students
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