Conservation International names California as one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. A biodiversity hotspot is a region with a large number of species whose existence is threatened by human activity. California's wildlife is particularly at risk because many of it's resident species are endemic (only found in California) and over 70% of natural habitat has been lost due to development and land degradation. One of the main challenges facing Conservation Biologists is effectively monitoring species distribution and establishing reliable baselines of a region’s biodiversity. This is key for early detection of species declines.
This project aims to address these problems by sending citizen scientists into all corners and habitats of the state of California to collect soil and sediment samples, take basic measurements, snap photos, and record observations. We plan to activate 1000 CALeDNA citizen scientists to amass 18,000 samples by the end of 2018. The samples will be frozen as a state-of-the-art environmental sample museum allowing future researchers to ask how biodiversity changes over time, particularly in relation to changing environmental conditions that California is experiencing. We will sequence environmental DNA, "eDNA", from many of these samples to understand the biodiversity at those places, which involves developing new tools and technologies that work for a variety of habitats. We will openly share these methods so we can make biodiversity monitoring easier and more effective for all.