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EXPLORE THE POWER OF

Environmental DNA

© Rebecca Spring / WWF-Canada

WHAT IS eDNA TECHNOLOGY?

Molecular genetics allows the understanding of the genetic bases of species formation, diversification and adaptation by analyzing DNA molecules. Environmental DNA (eDNA) is crucial for ecological research because it can be recovered from biological materials such as saliva, feces, plant seeds, and milk. DNA sequence data can be extracted from organisms and used to identify different species.

© Living Lakes Canada / WWF-Canada

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WHY eDNA FOR CONSERVATION?

Molecular genetic techniques have rapidly become the cornerstones of ecological research, and are opening up a whole new way of identifying and classifying species in the future.

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WHERE IS WWF USING eDNA TECHNOLOGY?
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NORTHERN BC / YUKON BORDER

STREAM sampling using eDNA.

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RAGGED ISLAND

NUNAVUT

Development of tools and capacity for community-based monitoring of biodiversity shifts and early detection of aquatic invasive species in the Canadian Arctic.

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SUNSHINE COAST

BRITISH COLUMBIA

 Empowering communities to better monitor their rivers using STREAM.

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OTTAWA

ONTARIO

Empowering communities to better monitor their rivers using STREAM.

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NELSON

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Empowering communities to better monitor their rivers using STREAM.

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SUDBURY

ONTARIO

Empowering communities to better monitor their rivers using STREAM.

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BLUEBERRY RIVER

FIRST NATION

Empowering communities to better monitor their rivers using STREAM.

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SMITHERS

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Empowering communities to better monitor their rivers using STREAM.

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CANMORE

ALBERTA

 Empowering communities to better monitor their rivers using STREAM.

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INVERMERE

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Empowering communities to better monitor their rivers using STREAM.

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LAIRD

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Empowering Indigenous Guardians to better monitoring their rivers using STREAM.

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eDNA IN ACTION

Explore how WWF-Canada is using eDNA for Conservation

eDNA technology sheds light on river health

© Rebecca Spring / WWF-Canada

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eDNA IN ACTION

eDNA technology sheds light on river health

In watersheds across the country, Canada lacks basic data on the state of our rivers, with one of the biggest gaps being data on benthic invertebrates, the tiny bugs that live at the bottom of river beds.

These flies, beetles, aquatic worms, snails and other creatures can tell us a lot about the health of a freshwater system. One of the main challenges is identifying these tiny bugs as most of them are no bigger than the head of a pin. In the past, samples were sent to taxonomists to identify—a very long and tedious process. Without this information, we are unable to take the proper steps needed towards ensuring the health of Canada’s freshwater systems.

© Heather Crochetiere / WWF-Canada

Environmental DNA (eDNA) technology changes all that. The “genetic metabarcoding” system developed by experts at the University of Guelph’s Centre for Biodiversity Genomics can identify species using DNA in water, soil, sediment and actual bug DNA samples. Researchers blend up the sample, extract the DNA, and put it into a machine that sequences the genetic code comparing it to an extensive DNA library of bugs. The results are faster, cheaper than traditional taxonomy and impressively accurate. 

WWF-Canada is combining powerful conservation genomics with an equally powerful force: citizen scientists. Their efforts can efficiently expand our databases for better freshwater health.

In 2019, Sequencing the Rivers for Environmental Assessment and Monitoring (STREAM) was launched, a partnership between WWF-Canada, Living Lakes Canada, the University of Guelph, Genome Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

STREAM’s field courses teach volunteers the proper protocols for collecting samples, which are then sent to the University of Guelph for eDNA analysis. These courses provide the tools, knowledge and training to community groups so that they can monitor their waters in a scientifically rigorous manner.

 © Ghost Watershed Alliance Society

 

Revolutionizing Canada’s water data

STREAM will revolutionize the future of freshwater monitoring in Canada, filling in key gaps in WWF-Canada’s Watershed Reports. Determining the health and state of waterways can help us advocate for their protection and future mitigation measures.

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IMPACT

50

More than 50 people have been trained with STREAM's field courses. Our goal with the STREAM project is to collect 1,500 samples, over 3 years.

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OUR PARTNERS IN eDNA
Living Lakes Canada Logo
Genome Canada Logo
Centre for biodiversity genomics logo
Environment and Climate Change Canada Logo
University of Guelph Logo
STREAM logo

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OUR PARTNERS IN eDNA
STREAM logo
Genome Canada Logo
Environment and Climate Change Canada Logo
University of Guelph Logo
Centre for biodiversity genomics logo
Living Lakes Canada Logo

Want to partner with us?

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TAKE THE NEXT STEP

Support the future of environmental conservation

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Take part in a Living Planet Technology Challenge

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