Inspiring Practice Project

Environmental DNA and citizen science | Exploration and safeguarding of local coastal diversity through respectful and non-invasive inventory procedures

Uploaded by RRI Tools on 17 January 2017

Conserving biodiversity is the key to a healthy, sustainable life for future generations. In this project a monitoring tool based on the DNA present in the environment was developed and tested. This is helping to build a database of species without disturbing wildlife to create an inventory of European biodiversity. The present research is necessary to prevent potential suffering or extinction of biota (animals and others) in the future.

This project aims to bring together people of different ages from different activity sectors for environmental actions in a network of citizen scientists and to involve authorities, managers, stakeholders and general public in creating the inventory of biota. The team believes that current academic knowledge should be publicly shared with citizens to support conscious and respectful treatment of local biodiversity.

Development, Exploration, Implementation, Monitorization & Evaluation, Dissemination
In principle, the team believes that current academic knowledge should be publicly shared with
citizens to support conscious and respectful treatment of local biodiversity. Moreover, it is simply impossible to make an inventory of all coastal biodiversity without the help of local citizens; there is not and will never be an adequate workforce for such a huge task. This project therefore intends to involve volunteers of all ages in a network of citizen scientists. Target groups and stakeholders in the research are scientists, managers of natural resources, national and regional authorities, fishermen’s associations and guilds, surf schools, marina and yacht clubs, graduate and undergraduate students, senior citizens involved in lifelong learning and the general public. Scientists and managers are in charge of biodiversity inventories. Regional and national authorities have the competences for environmental issues. Fishermen and people engaged in recreational maritime activities are key stakeholders for marine biodiversity. The good response to the project from seniors gave the idea of introducing the value of multi-age groups in citizen science.

The young people involved are also concerned about the future of our society: they were helped
to come into contact with experienced people so that they could learn from them. Patience and
flexibility in environmental conservation are invaluable lessons for children and young people.
The energy and enthusiasm of children turns out to be positively contagious for the older volunteers as well, creating a pleasant working environment.
The societal challenges addressed revolve around the sustainable use of natural resources and
protecting and conserving biodiversity. The team uses the following approach:
- Reconciling reliable biodiversity inventory with respect for animals in their natural habitats;
the values of environmental conservation and sustainable management of natural resources
and biodiversity are natural outcomes of this project.
- Involving the general public of all ages in science, thereby filling the gap between highly
specialised science in research and academia and public scientific knowledge. When young
students (primary and secondary education) share their activities they engage them in responsible
research and scientific practices, and awaken their interest in science and knowledge,
as well as in environmental issues. The same can be applied to seniors, since they involve
mature students who are above retirement age in our activities.
The research teams indicated that the problem of exotic species is that they outcompete the
native population. For example, the native population of a certain species of mussels disappeared
from one marina in less than two years. If the new species gets out of the marina, it
could spread to other places. But the new ones cannot be eaten, since they are small, but
simultaneously accumulate heavy metals faster by growing faster. Then starfish, for example,
which may eat these mussels could die because of the heavy metals, which poison them slowly
by gradual accumulation and so on up the food chain to fish and then human beings. Mercury
can be a particular problem, since it is taken up before it disappears into sediments due to the
fast growth of the mussels. Similar examples exist in the case of plants, which hinder e.g. bird
nesting and cause other problems downstream from this.


From 01/01/2014 to present
  • Leading organisation: University of Oviedo (Spain)
  • Cooperation partners: University of Perpignan (France) and Klaipeda University (Lithuania) (in Spanish)

Eva Garcia-Vazques (project PI)


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