Biodiversity plays a critical role in the resilience of natural systems, and there is a directed effort towards understanding current threats to biodiversity (e.g. climate change). The emerging field of environmental DNA (eDNA) is transforming our approach to how we assess biological diversity and, in select applications, quantify animals in the wild. eDNA is used to describe DNA shed from processes such as the sloughing of skin, scales, mucus, eggs, sperm, blood, or defecation, and can be used to provide a record of a species presence. When combined with recent advancements in next-generation sequencing, bioinformatics, and experimental validation, the diversity of organisms and number of animals for select species can be recovered from environmental samples that contain mixtures of DNA signatures. As such, eDNA metabarcoding can provide a wealth of information for studies of biodiversity, diet analysis, and for environmental and invasive species monitoring. I will highlight several studies focused on the development and application of eDNA metabarcoding for studying marine biodiversity and fisheries monitoring, with a focus on the critical role that natural history collections can play in these advancements.
Dr. Joseph DiBattista is Curator of Fishes at the Australian Museum in Sydney. He holds a PhD from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, completed an NSERC postdoctoral fellowship at the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), a postdoctoral position at KAUST in Saudi Arabia, and an Early Career Research Fellowship at Curtin University in Perth. During this time he has organized and/or participated in over 60 research trips, starting in the Western Atlantic Ocean and more recently moving into the Indo-West Pacific. His current research is focused on understanding the origins of reef fish biodiversity and how it is maintained using a combination of traditional and next-generation sequencing approaches. He is particularly interested in exploring new ways to track monitor and monitor environmental shifts in our oceans with environmental DNA (eDNA), with a focus on the fish fauna, their diet, and microbiome as biological indicators.