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University project included in first round of new NERC funding stream

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27 October 2015

Dr Martin Genner from the School of Biological Sciences is leading a £1 million project from the Highlight Topics programme, NERC’s new mechanism of funding strategic research.

Dr Genner’s project ‘SeaDNA – Assessing marine biodiversity and structure using environmental DNA: from groundtruthing to food web structure and stability’ – is among eight successful Highlight Topic applications which align with NERC’s strategic vision of putting environmental science at the heart of sustainable management of the planet.

These projects will help address some of the key challenges facing society, shedding light on subjects like why the climate is warming at an uneven rate with pronounced pauses and surges, what happens to tiny plastic particles as they move about and break down in the environment, and how we can use new genetic techniques to measure biodiversity.

The SeaDNA project is a partnership with the University of Salford, Imperial College, the British Antarctic Survey and the Marine Biological Association. It will test a potentially revolutionary idea that marine biodiversity can be measured using genomic methods to identify traces of DNA that organisms leave behind in the ocean.

Genner said: 'Traditionally we have used specialist nets, grabs or underwater cameras to survey species larger than microbes in marine communities, but these methods often miss the species that are rare, small, or can move out of the way. By contrast sampling free environmental DNA (eDNA) is potentially more reliable, faster, less expensive and less destructive.'

Professor Iain Gillespie, NERC’s director of science and innovation, said: 'It’s fantastic to see science emerging to address these highlight topics, which will be central to delivering the priorities in the NERC strategy. This is a great first cohort of projects from our new funding route.'


Further information

Further details available on the NERC website. 

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