Skip to main content


Environmental DNA Expeditions in UNESCO World Heritage Marine sites



Engaging citizen scientists in revealing the richness and vulnerability of biodiversity for the conservation of UNESCO sites in a changing climate

The Environmental DNA Expeditions in UNESCO World Heritage sites is an innovative project to study biodiversity. Environmental DNA (eDNA) is increasingly becoming one of the most efficient tools in biodiversity conservation. By using only a small amount of seawater, the eDNA sampling technique successfully reduces the cost and effort of sampling to determine the species richness in protected areas such as the heritage marine site around the globe. The eDNA project runs from December 2021 until December 2023 and is a unique initiative funded by both the UNESCO Science Trust Fund (FUST) and the Flanders UNESCO Trust Fund (FUT, managed by the Flanders Department of Chancellery and Foreign Affairs).

From September 2022 to April 2023, twenty-five locations of the UNESCO World Heritage marine site network will be sampled. The data collected from the expeditions will be analyzed to provide information about local biodiversity under the effect of global warming scenarios. The eDNA project will promote public participation in environmental sampling under the guidance of UNESCO on-site leaders. Local citizens can engage in on-site procedures such as the sampling process, the filtering, and DNA fixing before sending the samples to the central laboratory for DNA sequencing. A standardized methodology for sampling, data monitoring, and data management will be applied globally while making the data publicly available.











The eDNA project aims to:

  • Create an open source for standardized sampling protocols, analysis techniques, and data in collaboration with OBIS. OBIS data interface can be found at
  • Promote participation of local citizens and youth in marine science thanks to the simple eDNA protocol. At the same time, inspiring the next generation of scientists.
  • Support the decision-making process by providing and interpreting the results from eDNA sampling.
  • Perfect the methodology for eDNA to improve data comparability and enhance cross-data sharing.

The collected eDNA data will be administered and published by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). OBIS is a global open-access data and information clearing-house on marine biodiversity for science conservation and sustainable development. The eDNA project in collaboration with OBIS develops explicit tools to contribute eDNA data to OBIS data system. Moreover, the eDNA project works together with the PacMAN project to build a DNA database for local species as a pioneer for early detection of non-indigenous species (NIS) and practice data and metadata processing workflow from raw sequence reads to standardized OBIS occurrence data.

For more information about the project, please visit the official website for eDNA project

The eDNA expeditions in marine World Heritage sites is an endorsed by Ocean Decade Actions as a citizen-science project. By engaging local citizens, the project contributes to public awareness of marine ecosystems. At the same time, the project promotes open access to ocean data, information, technology, and innovation, creates a digital presentation of the Ocean, and supports community resilience to ocean hazards.


All images provided by © UNESCO/Raw Visuals LTD