Genetic material (short DNA fragments) left behind by species in nonliving components of the environment (e.g. soil, sediment, or water) is defined as environmental DNA (eDNA). This DNA has been previously described as particulate DNA and has been used to detect and describe microbial communities in marine sediments since the mid-1980’s and phytoplankton communities in the water column since the early-1990’s. More recently, eDNA has been used to monitor invasive or endangered vertebrate and invertebrate species. While there is a steady increase in the applicability of eDNA as a monitoring tool, a variety of eDNA applications are emerging in fields such as forensics, population and community ecology, and taxonomy. This review provides scientist an understanding of the methods underlying eDNA detection as well as applications, key methodological considerations, and emerging areas of interest for its use in ecology and conservation of freshwater and marine environments.

Keywords: environmental DNA (eDNA), detection probability, occupancy models, persistence, metabarcode, minibarcode