The eDNAtlas website and dynamic database tools allow the public, managers, and researchers to access results from samples of environmental DNA (eDNA), which is genetic material released by organisms into the environment, and that is analyzed to determine local species occurrence. Analyzing eDNA samples in a lab allows researchers to reliably determine where target species are found and overcomes previous limitations of traditional sampling techniques. One person can easily and rapidly sample eDNA from many sites, making the technique incredibly efficient and useful in crowd-sourcing and citizen science campaigns that complement work by professional biologists to enable biodiversity monitoring and inventorying at unprecedented spatial extents.
Powering the eDNAtlas initially is a database of 8,000 samples, collected in recent years through multi-agency partnerships with the National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation. With many agencies and organizations that work on aquatics and fisheries issues rapidly adopting the use of eDNA sampling, thousands of new locations are sampled each year and will be added to future database updates at the eDNAtlas website. By providing and maintaining a comprehensive database, the project aims to minimize redundancy of effort among agencies and facilitate more data sharing, which ultimately saves time and money.
The eDNAtlas website posts sample results only after meeting stringent quality assurance procedures and obtaining permissions from data contributors. Results can be downloaded from the website for dozens of species in different parts of the United States through a dynamic ArcGIS online mapping tool, which provides information in geospatial file formats with full sets of complementary metadata. Also available on the website is extensive information about field data collection protocols, answers to frequently asked questions, who to contact if you are interested in collecting eDNA samples, information about the science underpinning the technique, and a national sampling grid that enables the design of efficient new surveys.