Scientists Vacuumed Animal DNA out of Thin Air
Elizabeth Clare, an ecologist, walked through Hamerton Zoo Park with a small vacuum pump. They ran the pump for half hour sessions around animal enclosures and collected 72 samples from 20 different sites. They then took the material from the pump filter back to the lab for analysis where they identified 25 different species, including zoo residents as well as unexpected ones. For example, in the Dingo enclosure they detected DNA from meerkats that live 245 m away. In addition to this, they also caught samples of human DNA too.
Around the same time, a team at Copenhagen Zoo used tiny fans, similar to ones that cool down computers, to trap air borne DNA. They also experimented with a vacuum. From this, they identified 49 different vertebrate species that ranged from living in sampled enclosures to surrounding exhibits.
Both methods successfully collected animal DNA.
Scientists knew they could use environmental DNA in the air to monitor land-based species, but this proved to be challenging before this technique was shown to be successful. This could now be used as a non-invasive way to identify where endangered species have been, by picking up on their genetic footprints.