Interdisciplinary workshop at the 2016 meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Sunday, August 7th, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Powerful genetic & genomic tools enabled the realization that all organisms shed molecular traces of their presence into their environment. In ecology, use of extraorganismal “environmental DNA” (eDNA) gained prominence for detecting rare species. However, diverse disciplines also use and study extraorganismal DNA, including microbiology, fecal pollution tracking, forensics, hydrology, geology, and environmental biosafety. Despite methodological overlap between disciplines, interdisciplinary discourse has been limited. Thus, practitioners risk overlooking useful data and models, or worse, wasting resources on duplicative research.
In a recent open-access paper Cameron Turner and Matthew A. Barnes introduced the phrase "ecology of eDNA" to encapsulate the origin, state, transport, and fate of extraorganismal DNA-bearing matter. Understanding these properties and processes is critical for the rapidly- growing use of eDNA to infer organism presence/absence in our primary disciplines of ecology & conservation. Building on the relevant research from other disciplines using extraorganismal DNA will undoubtedly benefit these disciplines, but we believe value can also go both ways.