DNA – based methods offer a significant opportunity to change how we monitor and assess biodiversity. However, for most techniques, there is still much development required before they can be used in routine monitoring.
Natural England has been exploring the further use of these methods for environmental monitoring for several years, delivering a series of reports which focus on the development of DNA-based methods with potential in a particular area.
One such area that is increasingly being used is the detection of ecologically important species in aquatic habitats using environmental DNA (eDNA). This is often conducted by employing species-specific quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assays.
There are many available qPCR assays and often more than one for a given species. Different assays may have been validated to varying degrees and this affects the interpretation of results. There are also numerous eDNA analysis providers, each providing results in a non-standard format. This situation has led to challenges for widely adopting eDNA qPCR approaches outside of the few highly validated assays. The goal of this project was to address some of these challenges through the development of an eDNA qPCR assay and project validation framework, and this report describes the production of an online tool to assess confidence in results generated from eDNA qPCR assays.