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Environmental DNA: Sensing the Diversity of Life and Assessing Ecosystem Health

ETH Zurich via edX


What if you could detect species without observing them? What if nature sends out a reliable signal disclosing the presence of species that we can capture and interpret with great accuracy? How can we improve our efforts to monitor and conserve species habitats and ecosystems with such information in our hands?

Our comprehensive course offers a unique opportunity to delve into the world of eDNA and its groundbreaking role in understanding and safeguarding our natural ecosystems. Guided by our team of ecologists in the field, you'll learn about hands-on skills in sampling techniques, laboratory methodologies, and data interpretation. You will investigate ecological questions hidden within rivers, oceans, forests, and soils as you learn about analysing DNA samples present in the environment. Through the eDNA analysis approach, you'll gain the power to identify elusive species without disturbing their habitats. Imagine being able to monitor the presence of endangered creatures, invasive species, and even those on the brink of discovery, all while contributing to critical conservation efforts.

Follow our researchers as they take you along on their fieldwork in the tropical rainforests of Colombia, the coastal waters of Brittany, France and the forest reserves of Switzerland. Their research case studies will offer you the opportunity to dive into real-life environmental issues where scientific questions are intertwined with societal challenges. Through the different stages of their eDNA research, we can generate new insights about the diversity of species and the health of ecosystems for these cases.

Whether you're a conservationist, ecologist, an environmental policy expert, citizen scientist, or simply a nature enthusiast, this course promises to ignite your curiosity and equip you with tools to address today's pressing ecological challenges.


Module 1: Introduction to eDNA

This module introduces you to the field of environmental DNA analysis, how we come to understand what eDNA is, and how we can use it in biodiversity research.

Module 2: Designing the eDNA Workflow

This module takes you through the different steps and aspects of an eDNA research project.

Module 3: Sampling eDNA in the Environment

This module discusses the characteristics of designing a eDNA sampling strategy and implementing it in different types of environment.

Module 4: Laboratory Analysis

This module focuses on how eDNA samples are processed in the lab to obtain targeted genetic information.

Module 5: Bioinformatics Analysis

This module goes into how we can organise and analyse our data from eDNA samples using bioinformatic tools.

Module 6: Ecological Interpretation

This module teaches you how to interpret eDNA signals and make an ecological biodiversity assessment.

Module 7: Environmental Decision-Making

This module will show you how we can use eDNA to inform sound and sustainable environmental decision-making.

Taught by

Loïc Pellissier, Kristy Deiner, Aline Frossard, Camille Albouy, Monika Goralczyk, Romane Rozanski, Kevin Keyaert, Marion Muff, Letizia Zuliani and Fabian Fopp


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