The Persistence of Environmental DNA in the Marine Environment

EPA Grant Number: FP917812
Title: The Persistence of Environmental DNA in the Marine Environment
Investigators: Andruszkiewicz, Elizabeth Anne
Institution: Stanford University
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2018
Project Amount: $132,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships


eDNA is defined as extraorganismal DNA which may be found in feces, mucus, and sloughed cells and in some cases, it may be attached to particles. Species-specific primers can amplify DNA from a target species for quantification and next generation sequencing (NGS) can be used to identify species present using general or specific primers. However, not much information is known about the fate and transport of eDNA in the marine environment. The focus of this work is investigating the temporal stability of eDNA in seawater and test effects of microorganisms including grazers, salinity, temperature, and sunlight exposure on the persistence of eDNA in seawater to better understand how to use data and information from eDNA.


The fellow will conduct both field and lab experiments to answer the stated research questions. In situ microcosms will be deployed in the ocean to measure NGS signal of vertebrate species over 5 days. Lab studies will manipulate grazers, salinity, temperature, and sunlight exposure to parse out each environmental stressor and its effect on the degradation of eDNA through eDNA extraction, amplification, sequencing, and data analysis.

Expected Results:

Prior research in freshwater systems has shown that several physio-chemical influence the stability of eDNA, including pH, chlorophyll a, and other conditions. The expected results from the proposed work in the marine environment are that eDNA will degrade under conditions of higher temperature, salinity, sunlight exposure, and concentration of grazers. The expected stability of eDNA is over a timescale of 3-5 days, meaning that biodiversity assessed by NGS of eDNA reflects recent conditions in seawater.

Supplemental Keywords:

environmental DNA, eDNA, metagenomics, environmental monitoring, declining biodiversity

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2016
  • 2017
  • Final