A worldwide day at the lake is planned to gather samples for science

Researchers are collecting environmental DNA to better grasp global biodiversity

On a single day in May, people around the world will be heading to the lake—hundreds of lakes around the world, actually—for a first-of-its-kind global citizen-science effort.

The LeDNA effort seeks to gather water samples from across the planet to search for bits of genetic material from the species that occupy those leaks. This environmental DNA—or eDNA—is increasingly helping biologists monitor species they may never see, but the genetic material they leave behind offers proof that they are there.

Researchers hope they can create a fuller picture of the Earth’s biodiversity.

“By involving citizens, we not only increase the geographical scope of our sampling but also foster a sense of public ownership and awareness regarding global biodiversity issues,” Cátia Lúcio Pereira, the project’s coordinator at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, told Nature.

The project has already received applications from more than 500 people across 101 countries to participate in collecting eDNA from their local lakes and shipping the samples to ETH Zurich. Organizers hope to have citizen scientists gather their samples on May 22—the International Day of Biological Diversity—but there is a two-week window for collections.

Read more from Nature.

Header Image: A researcher collects a water sample for eDNA analysis. Credit: Elvira Mächler and Florian Altermatt/University of Zurich