California is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots due in part to the rich variety of ecosystems and habitats arranged along latitudinal and altitudinal gradients as well as a mild Mediterranean climate. With an increasing need to monitor the environment from stressors such as climate change and habitat degradation, efficient and rapid sampling across ecosystems has become more critical than ever before. CALeDNA was founded in February 2017 through the University of California (UC) Catalyst program as a community science approach to measuring biodiversity of the entire state. This UC-wide initiative collects biodiversity data through DNA sequence analysis of soil and water samples that contain “environmental DNA” (eDNA) from organisms which lived in the environment. eDNA includes, but is not limited to saliva, blood, feces, and cells shed from organisms from all seven kingdoms of life. Anyone, regardless of scientific experience, can collect soil samples and return the pre-labeled kits for free to UC campuses where researchers analyze sequences from fungi, bacteria, plants, and animals present at a given site. This non-invasive approach allows researchers to create a baseline taxonomic list and monitor all seven kingdoms of life, especially organisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Over 1300 users have sampled more than 1600 sites to identify over 28000 taxa thanks to support from the UC Catalyst Grant Program and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).
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