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. Environmental DNA has been used as a species monitoring technique in aquatic systems but its utility in terrestrial systems is still being discovered. We will collect and analyze samples to establish a baseline of California's biodiversity, ensuring we can recover diversity for a number of different kinds of habitats that possess their own technical challenges. Our team is assembled of many hardcore genomics scientists dedicated to moving eDNA to new frontiers by enhancing current methodological techniques. We will create an environmental DNA museum allowing future researchers to analyze change in biodiversity over time in relation to changing environmental conditions. This helps us revisit the time-stamped samples as technology improves and allows us to look at community change over time. We will openly disseminate our developments in data collection, analysis, and soil/sediment sample curation to make biodiversity monitoring easier and more effective.
The CALeDNA Program is made possible by the financial support of the University of California Office of the President's Catalyst Grant Program given as an award made to the University of California Conservation Genomics Consortium.