On the Forefront of Biodiversity Research: Drones and DNA
In the tranquil hours before dawn, the red lemurs at Zurich Zoo are awoken by a buzz of activity. A team of scientists assembles their equipment on the treetop walkways, focusing not on the animals or exotic plants but on the unseen threads of life connecting them. They are part of a ground-breaking initiative leveraging Drone Technology to gather environmental DNA (eDNA) for genetic analysis.
Professor Kristy Deiner of ETH Zurich is spearheading this cutting-edge intersection of genetics and robotics. Deiner’s focus is on the pressing challenge of biodiversity loss.
She explains, “Biodiversity is being lost at a very high rate that we can’t control, partly because we don’t have the tools and data at the time we need them.”
To counter this, Deiner and her team are harnessing the power of eDNA, a collection of genetic material shed by organisms into their surroundings.
Armed with a portable mini-lab, the team can process eDNA from air, water, soil, or even a…