A group of scientists led by the Wildlife Society and Appalachian State University used environmental DNA to assess biodiversity at the highest mountain of the Earth, Everest, which is part of the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Expedition of 2019, the most comprehensive scientific mountain expedition in history.
Biologists collected environmental DNA from water samples for a month in ten ponds and streams at altitudes ranging from 4,500 m to 5,500 m. After studying 20 litres of water, they identified organisms belonging to 187 taxonomic units, representing 16.3 per cent of the total number of known units on the Earth ' s tree.
Although Everest's research focused on identification at the unit level, the team was able to identify many organisms at the level of genus or species.
For example, a team of researchers found two tiny animals that are known to be living in the harshest and most extreme conditions and considered to be one of the planet's most resilient animals. They also identified the Tibetan ulara that lives in Sagarmatha National Park.
Environmental DNA or eDNC is DNA collected from various environmental samples, such as soil, seawater, snow or even air, rather than samples taken directly from an individual organism. When different organisms interact with the environment, DNA accumulates in their environment. EDNC samples are collected by means of a sealed filter crankcase that captures genetic material, which is then analysed in a laboratory using meta-barcoded DNA and other sequencing methodologies. The Wildlife Society uses eDNC to detect rare species.