Naiara Rodriguez-Ezpeleta, expert in Marine Ecosystem Functioning and Molecular Ecology and Biotechnology, has been selected along with 15 other people to be part of the Advisory Board of the citizen science project “Environmental DNA Expeditions“, a joint initiative of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO and the World Heritage Centre.
Environmental DNA Expeditions: citizen science for a better understanding of our seas
The international initiative “Environmental DNA Expeditions” will help measure marine biodiversity and the impacts that climate change could have on the distribution patterns of marine life.
The sampling campaign will run for two years (2022 – 2023) and aims to collect environmental DNA (eDNA) from approximately 25 World Heritage marine sites from 500 water samples.
One of the main objectives of the project is to move eDNA sampling and sequencing towards a more standardized approach and secure open access for the resulting data. While many researchers today undertake eDNA sampling, little of the resulting information can be compared or combined because of the different ways in which eDNA is sampled and analysed. By sharing methods as well as data, UNESCO hopes to refine protocols for marine citizen-science sampling and benefit the global research community.
Data collected will be openly available and shared on UNESCO’s Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS) according to the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Repeatable) principles. A dedicated online platform will allow researchers, managers as well as every citizen on Earth to access the data and jointly step up protection of the ocean for future generations.
The project’s Advisory Board
The initiative is guided by an international advisory board bringing together some of the world’s leading scientists and experts in molecular ecology, eDNA, bioinformatics, fish metabarcoding and ocean science.
Naiara’s election is a further recognition of her work, as for the last five years, among other research areas, she is breaking important ground on environmental DNA projects, as evidenced by other designations in expert groups such as the following:
- IUCN SS SSC Species Monitoring Specialist Group
- FAO EIFAAC Environmental DNA in freshwater and marine fisheries Working Group
- UN Ocean Decade Ocean Best Practices System Omics/eDNA Task Team
- EuroGOOS Biological Observations Working Group