Environmental DNA in Antarctica and the Southern Seas
Have you ever wondered how many amazing creatures would have swam in the water around you, when you are sailing? What if we could get that information from a few drops of water?
In 2019 we started working with a relatively new technique known as Environmental DNA (eDNA). The scientific principle behind this technique is that all live organisms are constantly exchanging their cells and leaving them in the environment, via urine, blood, feces, mucus, etc. If that environment is water, then by collecting and filtering this water you could gain access to the genetic material of any organisms that had contact with it. Basically, you can obtain a “photograph” of a specific moment and place, by knowing which organisms were there at a particular time.
We have already been successful in using eDNA to study the aquatic vertebrate communities in many rivers in Colombia, including the Magdalena, Orinoco and Amazon River. We are now working in the Gulf of Tribugá in the Colombian Pacific, to understand how the aquatic vertebrate communities in the Gulf changes throughout the year.
During our first voyage to Antarctica, MV FRAM cruise passengers participated of our research by collecting and filtering water in the Antarctic Peninsula. The aim of this work its to be able to know which vertebrate species are found in these places and detect potential changes over time. Particularly, we are interested on species that can´t be easily detect or observed (known as cryptic). Thank you to all the passengers who came to our field trips in Antarctica, we had a wonderful experience learning and working with you!
Keep reading our blog! We will keep you all posted with our results when they become available. Our results will provide valuable information to include in future journeys and increase the knowledge and awareness of the visitors as well as the need to continue protecting these amazing places.
This is the first time eDNA is being studied in these regions! How exciting!