How this Forensic DNA Tool can help Conserve Endangered Species in the UK

10/03/2016 - 3 minutes

This is the story of how the Natural History Museum of Denmark and Molecular Ecology biotech Spygen (France) brought together forensic science techniques to detect traces of Great Crested Newt DNA in UK ponds.

The Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) is an amphibian found across Northern Europe and parts of Asia, which has been declining since the 1940’s due to loss of habitat and is a well-known UK protected species.

But how can we monitor how many of each species are in a particular habitat – and whether certain areas need additional legislative protection?

Previously, the detection of species was done through exhaustive hunts for eggs using bottle-trap set-ups (over several months), and night-time torchlight surveys, which are challenging (and have a lot of room for inaccuracy)!

Therefore, funded by the UK Department for Environmental and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Natural England, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Scottish Natural Heritage,

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