To address the critical need for understanding the status of freshwater health Living Lakes Canada in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund-Canada, University of Guelph and Environment and Climate Change Canada is developing a national citizen science program using Environmental DNA (eDNA) for benthic invertebrates. eDNA is an emerging tool for monitoring present biodiversity. It uses gene sequencing linked to DNA/RNA barcode libraries to allow for a faster, more complete profile of biodiversity content from very small samples. Internationally, countries like Australia, the EU and Scotland are exploring and working with eDNA. This is a made-in Canada technology and now is the opportunity to move beyond proof of concept to demonstrating the possible.
We’re using citizen scientists because, given the complexities of freshwater threats, Canada’s geographic scale and differences, citizen scientists are far more nimble and able to do this work. Internationally, the use of citizens to collect scientific data is growing. In 2014, the European Commission issued a White Paper on Citizen Science, the findings of which are now being reflected in monitoring practices throughout the EU. Between 2015 – 2016, the U.S. White House showed in citizen science investing in a forum and working with U.S. federal agencies to increase guidance, adoption and integration into decision-making.