Grant for eDNA Expeditions in Marine World Heritage Sites, 2021

Project: With the help of citizen scientists and the innovative eDNA technique, the aim is to collect data on biodiversity in marine World Heritage sites in order to subsequently process the information scientifically and to conduct a global media campaign on biodiversity.

Beneficiary: UNESCO

Subsidy: USD 364,264 (+ USD 535,292 co-financing from the Flanders Unesco Science Trust Fund - FUST)

Period: 2021 – 2023

This project aims to investigate biodiversity in a selection of UNESCO's 50 marine World Heritage sites through citizen science and the involvement of the local population, by using the revolutionary and innovative 'eDNA' technique in which DNA of animal species is detected from water samples. In this way one gets a better picture of endangered species. This is relevant to academia as well as local site managers and policy makers. Unesco wants to process the results scientifically with a view to future monitoring of biodiversity and will set up a global media campaign about it. The project thus links global challenges related to biodiversity (with impact of climate) to innovative science and the involvement of citizens and young people, with a strong focus on communication.

The project is divided into several work packages, including:

  • The technical development of the worldwide eDNA samples and the data integration in the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS) managed in Ostend.
  • The sampling campaign involving the local population and young people in particular
  • The scientific analysis focused on biodiversity monitoring in World Heritage sites, including a scientific publication.
  • The communication and global media campaign, with website, branding, a publication, press and social media campaigns.

The initiative has a scientific component, but also a heritage component aimed at better management of World Heritage sites. After all, the project concerns a special collaboration between UNESCO's cultural sector with the World Heritage Center (and more specifically the Marine World Heritage Programme) and UNESCO's scientific sector with the International Oceanographic Commission (and more specifically their IODE project office in Ostend).