EcoChange

Fieldwork in Svalbard. Photo courtesy of Prof Mary Edwards

Fieldwork in Svalbard. Photo courtesy of Prof Mary Edwards

One of the most exciting recent methodological breakthroughs in environmental science is the mainstreaming of molecular techniques. The development of “next-generation” sequencing and bioinformatics means that millions of DNA records can be gathered and analysed in a systematic way. DNA taken from the environment (water, soil, sediment) is now widely used in forensic investigations, and DNA taken from ancient and modern sediment can now be used like traditional fossils to create records of past biological communities, or to trace the presence in time and space of particular species of interest.   The ECOCHANGE project was a Europe-wide collaboration that pioneered the use of environmental DNA to create historical records from dated sediment sequences (Yoccoz et al., 2012).  The work is being continued by several Ecochange collaborating groups (Tromso, Grenoble, Copenhagen), plus Bergen, in the project AFTER THE ICE DNA.  We are comparing modern and recent vegetation patterns with DNA records obtained from lake sediments to assess the effectiveness and reliability of DNA records compared with conventional records. Study locations are Scotland, north Norway, Svalbard and Bjornoya. Southampton project participants: Prof Mary Edwards, Dr. Cath Langdon

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