What is the relationship between this project and CALeDNA?

CALeDNA is a University of California community science project that aims to monitor California's biodiversity using environmental DNA (eDNA). Protecting Our River is a research project from CALeDNA.

Where can I learn more about eDNA?

CALeDNA website:

How are Samples Analyzed?- short videos about the process the CALeDNA team uses to process and analyze eDNA.

Disclaimer - discusses the limitations of eDNA.

Methods for Researchers - discusses protocols, workflow, and software the CALeDNA team uses.

Other resources:

Wikipedia article about environmental DNA

Environmental DNA by Pierre Taberlet, Aurelie Bonin, Lucie Zinger, and Eric Coissac

How I can add my own field observations?

iNaturalist is a free citizen science project that asks people to record their observations from the nature around them through photos, videos, and sound recordings.  Volunteer citizen scientists have made over 26 million observations of over 230,000 species using iNaturalist.

When will this project start?

We've already begun! We are excited to build an online portal to engage our community scientists in discovering their local riverine ecosystem even in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Environmental DNA sampling efforts are being cautiously planned for summer, while our online presence is gearing up! We're preparing our website to accommodate and integrate different data on biodiversity and the river system, as well as various creative and cultural expressions.


ASV - amplicon sequence variant. This is a unique DNA sequence obtained after sequencing eDNA. We get hundreds of thousands of sequences back for each sample, and sort them into unique bins called ASVs. Then we compare each ASV to public sequences obtained from different species and report its closest match.

BioBlitz - an event where people try to identify as many organisms as possible in a given area. 

Community science / citizen science - programs where the public gets involved in scientific research by volunteering their time, expertise, or perspective.

environmental DNA (eDNA) - DNA deposited by living organisms (animals, plants, microbes, etc) in the environment as they exist/pass through it. eDNA can include a mixture of skin cells, fur, feces, blood, pollen, and leaves in tiny fragments in the environment. Small samples of the environment (soil, air, water, etc) are collected where future lab work will extract eDNA for analysis. The DNA may still be in the fragments or it may be loose and just chemically bound to environmental particles.

Soil - A mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquid and organisms that supports life on earth.

Sediment - Organic matter and sand, silt, or clay that settles below the water.

Sample - Soil, sediment, or water collected in the field that contain eDNA. These are sent back to CALeDNA for genetic analyses.

Replicate - One of multiple samples taken at a single site. We take multiple samples at the same site because obtaining DNA from a single species in multiple replicates provides stronger evidence of presence than a single sample which may have been accidentally contaminated.

Site - Area within a location where samples are collected. There are 3 samples taken per site.