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PHILIP FRANCIS THOMSEN - Environmental DNA

My research group is working with questions in ecology, conservation and evolution – mainly using molecular approaches. Our particular focus is on the applications of DNA from environmental samples (environmental DNA - eDNA) using high-throughput DNA sequencing. We work with samples from several different contemporary environments (freshwater, marine, terrestrial) from the Arctic to the tropics. We work with organisms spanning the Tree-of-Life, and working with both species, community and population level analyses. We use state-of-the-art cleanlab facilities situated in buildings separated from all post-PCR work, for working with low-abundant and low-quality DNA samples.

Example of an ongoing research project:

COAST_SEQUENCE – exploring Danish marine biodiversity using environmental DNA

In this project, we use eDNA from seawater and top sediment to explore marine biodiversity in Denmark through extensive sampling along the Danish coastline by researchers as well as a large group of engaged citizen scientists. By massively sequencing DNA from all types of marine organisms, we will obtain unprecedented insights into the life along our coasts, and coupling this with oceanographic and environmental data, we will try to determine important drivers for the distribution of marine biodiversity in Denmark. The project has the potential to revolutionize how we obtain data on the living world both for research purposes and for applied aspects such as environmental monitoring, fisheries, education and ecotourism. The project will be the first of its kind to perform extensive national marine monitoring by using eDNA coupled with citizen science in order to obtain in-depth knowledge of our marine heritage.

The project builds on a partnership between universities, Danish Society for Nature Conservation (DN) and the five largest Danish aquariums, and is funded by the Velux Foundation.