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Logotyp för Naturhistoriska riksmuseet
Logotyp för Naturhistoriska riksmuseet

Nordic ecosystem we study using eDNA, Tom van der Valk

eDNA genomics

We use environmental DNA to answer a wide variety of research question related to biodiversity changes over time, genetic health of (endagered)species and wildlife forensics.

Forskningsområden: Bioinformatik och genetik

Forskningsämnen: Biodiversitet, e-DNA, Sekvensering och genomforskning

Project overview

Project period: 2022-2027

Participating units from the museum: Bioinformatics and Genetics

Environmental DNA (eDNA) has emerged as a powerful tool in genomics with diverse applications in environmental monitoring, conservation, and ecological research. eDNA refers to the genetic material shed by organisms into their surrounding environment, such as water or soil, which can be collected and analyzed to infer the presence, abundance, and diversity of various species. This non-invasive approach has gained popularity due to its numerous applications. In our lab we are developing the computational methods for the analysis of environmental DNA.

Project description

We are working on the following eDNA applications:

  • Biodiversity Monitoring: eDNA enables us to detect species without direct observation, making it valuable for tracking rare, elusive, or cryptic species. It provides a comprehensive view of biodiversity in various ecosystems, aiding in the assessment of ecosystem health and changes over time.
  • Invasive Species Detection: We can use eDNA to identify invasive species early on, helping manage and prevent their spread.
  • Endangered Species Conservation: Monitoring eDNA can aid in the conservation of endangered species by providing critical information about their distribution and population dynamics. This information is essential for implementing effective conservation strategies.
  • Monitoring Restoration Efforts: When restoring habitats, eDNA can help track the success of these efforts by assessing whether target species are recolonizing the area. This helps conservationists make informed decisions about further management.
  • Forensic Ecology: In forensic investigations, eDNA can be used to identify species involved in criminal activities, such as poaching or illegal trade in wildlife products.
  • Paleoecology and Archaeology: By analyzing historical eDNA preserved in sediment or other substrates, we can reconstruct past ecosystems and uncover information about ancient species and environments.
  • Pathogen Detection: eDNA can assist in monitoring the presence of pathogens in environments, such as tracking disease outbreaks in wildlife populations or identifying potential sources of waterborne diseases.
  • Pollution Monitoring: eDNA can be used to assess the effects of pollutants on ecosystems by studying changes in species composition and health.

In essence, the applications of environmental DNA using genomics are vast and continually expanding. This technology has revolutionized the way we study and understand the natural world, offering insights that were previously challenging or impossible to obtain through traditional methods. We are continuously improving our analytics methods to obtain ever more accurate environmental DNA data insights.


  • Wallenberg and SciLifeLab Data-driven-life-science grant

Project members

  • Chenyu Jin, PhD student
  • Samantha López Clinton, PhD student
  • Benjamin Guinet, postdoctoral researcher

Project manager

Tom van der Valk


Bioinformatics and genetics


Resarch Areas: Bioinformatics and genetics

Research Subjects: Biodiversity, e-DNA, Sequencing and Genome Research