Create a sticky drone to collect environmental DNA from forest canopies

Swiss scientists developed a proof-of-concept method to collect environmental DNA (eDNA) from the high-arching forest canopies, an unmonitored habitat. Drones in trees to capture genetic material – giving them a clearer picture of the area’s organic breakdown, reports engadget.

The researchers used a quadcopter with a viscous collection cage, but because tree branches can bend at the slightest touch – and the drone needs to touch branches to collect DNA – it has a touch-based control system using force sensors to measure the pressure between the drone and the branch.

Then, it adjusts its landing accordingly, leaning on the branch gently enough to avoid flinging the valuables onto the ground.

The drone cage then picks up samples with a sticky surface made of “adhesive tape and cotton gauze moistened with a solution of water and sugar free of DNA.”

The cage spends about 10 seconds leaning on each branch and collecting eDNA before returning to the base, where the scientists retrieve the samples and ship them to the lab. The drone in the experiment succeeded in collecting enough genetic material to identify 21 animal classes ranging from insects and mammals to birds and amphibians.

However, the scientists explain that this is a work in progress. For example, on the day of the latest research, the team noticed a decrease in eDNA detection due to the precipitation the night before indicating that the method only tells them which objects have been visited since the last rainfall. In addition, they noted unexplained differences in the performance of the two collectors, highlighting the need for further research on the equipment differences.

The researchers hope that their work will make it easier and cheaper for environmental biologists to learn which creatures live in some of the hard-to-reach places. This approach could eventually help the scientific community understand how environmental changes affect biodiversity, and perhaps help identify endangered or threatened species. endangered before it is too late.


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