MOBeDNA – Monitoring Biodiversity using environmental DNA
The AG-Fisk supported project MOBeDNA is very much on track as scheduled. MOBeDNA has two objectives that are: 1) to establish a network of eDNA specialist in order to target conservative issues in the marine environment related to EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive and sustainability and 2) to develop this network to target BG-07-2019-2020 call for sustainable fisheries management and technological observations platforms which will open in 2020. To reach these objectives MOBeDNA invited to an open conference in Reykjavík, Iceland 2. and 3. of October 2019. On the conference invited specialist of eDNA research presented the challenges, technical advances, sampling protocols and opportunities in eDNA studies.
The MOBeDNA conference invited seven specialists in eDNA and students to give talks at the conference. Webpage about the conference was set up to introduce the conference, where the agenda was posted and where participant could register. The conference was free and open for all that registered and was held in the conference hall of the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute (MFRI). The conference and its webpage was introduced by news stories on the Matís webpage and by sending out invitations to universities, research institutions and biological society in Iceland. The University of Iceland and the MFRI posted about the conference on their webpage.
On the conference 7 scientist and 5 students from Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Faro Islands, and Canada and gave 16 presentations on their research using eDNA methods. These scientists and students gave 16 talks about using eDNA methods for monitoring biodiversity, state of the knowledge, comparison with traditional methods, sampling protocols, automatization and robotic observation platforms, and future opportunities in eDNA studies. Fifty people registered for the conference.
The conference was very successful and got some publicity in Iceland. On the second day of the conference Davíð Gislason coordinator was interviewed by the state radio about the conference (starts on min 20:40). Twitter #mobedna was also posted by speakers. Matís published news on their webpage about the conference as well as web news about bio resources in Iceland.
The conference MOBeDNA Monitoring Biodiversity using environmental DNA (eDNA) gave a great overview of the opportunities, challenges and application of eDNA methods in marine biodiversity research. eDNA methods to biodiversity research is an emerging tool that have great potential for assessing biodiversity in the ocean. Biological diversity is probably declining faster than ever before in the history of the ocean. This is clearly seen in changed and changing distribution and migration patterns demonstrated in many species. Important commercial species like capelin, mackerel and herring have demonstrated changed distribution and migration that has been contributed to climate change and warming oceans. However these are only few species that we have information about but it has been suggested that climate driven habitat change or species loss in the ocean is greatly underestimated as we have only identified small fraction of species in the deep sea and polar oceans.
Monitoring and measuring biodiversity in the ocean is difficult, expensive and time consuming with traditional methods. eDNA methods offers alternative to traditional biodiversity research that are often more sensitive and less expensive. However it is clear that both methods have to be applied in the beginning of biodiversity research as majority of the species detected with eDNA have not been sequenced for identification and are not in species databases, making identification to species impossible. It is very important for biodiversity research using eDNA that key species in the ocean have been identified and their unique DNA sequence entered to database for identification with molecular methods.