Kat Bruce – Environmental DNA accelerates the power and pace of biodiversity surveys for environmental impact assessment

The importance of mitigating biodiversity losses has risen sharply up the corporate agenda in recent years, with an increasing rate of high-level business commitments to achieving No Net Loss, widespread adoption of performance standards by financial lenders (IFC Performance Standard 6, Equator Principles etc), and an increasing focus of investors on ESG. 

However, conventional methods of biodiversity assessment are ill-equipped to deliver the data required for robust evidence-based decision-making. They are typically labour-intensive, require large teams of diverse specialists to make extended trips to some of the most inhospitable places on the planet at considerable personal risk, and provide only patchy data, which is often insufficient to demonstrate No Net Loss or Net Gain.

In this presentation, I introduce DNA-based tools for large-scale biodiversity assessment and show how they provide unprecedented amounts of data from highly efficient sampling programmes that can be largely carried out by non-specialists. These tools accelerate data acquisition both by increasing the amount of information derived from each unit of field effort, and by simplifying field methodologies so that they can be implemented more regularly and more widely.

Case studies from around the world are presented within the framework of the Mitigation Hierarchy, showing how DNA-derived data can help guide decision-making to avoid, mitigate, restore & offset biodiversity loss. 

Fig 1. Species distribution maps extracted from a landscape-scale baseline using environmental DNA. This provided data on over 600 species from a single 3-person sampling trip.


Dr Kat Bruce is founder of NatureMetrics, a UK-based company specialising in environmental DNA. Kat trained as a tropical ecologist, making many research trips to the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador and Peru. She obtained a Bachelors degree in Wildlife Ecology from Anglia Ruskin University, a Masters in Entomology from Imperial College, and a PhD in molecular biodiversity assessment from the University of East Anglia. After completing her PhD in 2013, Kat set up NatureMetrics to bridge the gap between the powerful molecular tools being developed in the research world and the environmental managers who could benefit from their use. NatureMetrics is now working with private-sector clients from all around the world, providing biodiversity data to inform decision-making.

Kat’s particular interest lies in how to bring together the worlds of research, industry and policy to drive forward advances in our capacity to monitor the natural world. She is currently leading a working group on field and laboratory methods within the EU COST Action project DNAqua-net. This group aims to establish best practice for the use of DNA monitoring tools for aquatic biomonitoring in Europe and is currently working on the development of a European Standard for eDNA sampling. 

NatureMetricsLtd, CABI Site,BakehamLane, Egham, TW20 9TY

Donate now

Any questions: hello@responsiblerawmaterials.com