Is it acceptable to use results from eDNA tests as obs?

i’ve got a bunch of results back from a edna test and i’m curious if it would be okay to use as obs?

While it probably counts as evidence, I feel like it’s unlikely many people will be able to confirm the observation.

3 Likes

It depends what you mean by “eDNA test”.
eDNA stands for environmental DNA, and the source is an environmental sample like water or soil etc. If that is the source of DNA then you won’t have associated data, like photos, that can be linked to a particular named sequence. So, whilst you could add the data to iNat it can’t be verified and would remain ‘Casual’. In my view iNat isn’t a suitable repository for that kind of data.

The general repository for the original data is the Sequence Read Archive …
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sra

Some countries host national eDNA repositories, e.g. the ALA in Australia …
https://www.ala.org.au/environmentaldna/

As an aside, I suppose you could call eDNA a ‘test’ if it was being used to confirm if a particular organism is present in the sample or not. It wouldn’t be the choice technology for that kind of testing. eDNA is a technique for surveying rather than testing, usually for a particular group of organisms. For that purpose it may be accurate for some groups but not for others. It depends on the completeness of reference barcode sequence database (very incomplete in my country - New Zealand), together with the accuracy of the technique when applied to the group (poor for fungi - my group).

4 Likes

Yes, I don’t think eDNA results (by themselves, without other photo/audio evidence) are a great fit for iNaturalist for several reasons. As others have mentioned, there’s not really a meaningful way for other users to confirm the results. To confirm, they’d need to assess that the sample collection was done properly, there’s no contamination, etc.

Other reasons include that the time and location of the organism detecting by eDNA are not very defined. Aquatic samples, for instance, aren’t strongly linked to a specific location. They may indicate that the organism is upstream in a watershed or somewhere in a large body of water, but not at the sample collection location. Likewise, eDNA can persist for decent periods of time (months, even years potentially) under some conditions, so it isn’t clear when the sequenced organism was actually present.

Lastly, and more philosophically, iNat observations are really about recording an interaction between a person and an organism. I think posting eDNA reads as an observation stretches this concept a bit myself. Overall, I would suggest that there are better places to post eDNA data (some mentioned by @cooperj above).

2 Likes

I agree, it’s not a good fit for iNat.