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The ability for sediments to preserve DNA across time and scale is still not understood, however ancient environmental DNA (SedaDNA) from sediments has in recent years proven to be an unpreceded resource of information about past ecosystems, ecological communities, and evolutionary inference. The field has undergone a massive development in the bioinformatics pipelines which still needs large investments to handle the complexities of the samples. In contrast, upstream analyses have received little attention and investment and we are currently blind to DNA taphonomy and provenance. If we can address taphonomy and provenance we can obtain a much higher spatial and temporal resolution in the interpretations of the SedaDNA. 

I am working on merging interfacial geochemical principles with information from the depositional environments and the stratigraphic units as well as making nano-level experiments to test hypotheses  to unravel DNA taphonomy and provenance. My recent studies show that minerals and organic compounds can sequester and preserve very different amounts of DNA and this “lithological bias” prevents us from comparing biodiversity measures across sediment types and depositional systems. To estimate changes in biodiversity across samples composed of different lithologies and or with different sedimentary pathways, we do need to account for the ability of the sedimentary components to retain and preserve DNA.



Our recent study

Application of interfacial   geochemical principles to elucidate how depositional processes and the stability of DNA–sediment associations  influence our interpretation of pst biodiversity from sedimentary ancient DNA.

We also identify possible interpretational biases arising from neglecting mineral and geochemical controls on eDNA taphonomy. 

Importance of eDNA taphonomy and sediment provenance for robust ecological inference: Insights from interfacial geochemistry

Blog post:
Application of mineralogy and DNA adsorption capacity as tools to advance SedaDNA research

Sand et al retention schematics.jpg

A 2-million-year-old ecosystem in Greenland uncovered by environmental DNA

A major output of our work so far was exploring why we find 2 Ma old DNA in sediments in Greenland.

We argue that adsorption to mineral surfaces play a role for long term DNA preservation.

Blog post:
36 hours out of the ordinary

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