UK Cetacean eDNA Network

Interested in applying environmental DNA (eDNA) for cetacean monitoring and research around the UK? eDNA metabarcoding can detect species presence from microbes to whales in seawater samples providing a novel, non-invasive way to monitor the marine environment. We are looking to develop a network of researchers interested in sharing experience and developing new collaborative research projects.

What we want to do:

  • Build a collaborative network to support monitoring of cetacean presence, distribution and relative abundance in UK waters using eDNA tools
  • Understand spatial and seasonal habitat use in relation to physical environmental and ecological factors, interactions with prey species etc
  • Understand interactions with, and impact of anthropogenic activities in the marine environment, e.g. offshore energy infrastructure, anthropogenic noise and other sources of disturbance
  • Collect long term data to assess potential effects of climate change on cetaceans in UK waters
  • Develop and improve methods for large scale eDNA sampling for cetacean monitoring
  • Share experience across the network in eDNA methods for sampling, data generation and data analysis, and provide training opportunities
  • Develop collaborative grant applications and citizen science projects

To express an interest or find out more please email Simon Goodman ( and Elizabeth Boyse (

Marine eDNA sampled from cetacean habitats can give insights into species presence, community structure, and species interactions, for example predator co-occurrence with prey and food web structure.

Related publications

  • Boyse, E., Beger, M., Valsecchi, E., & Goodman, S. J. (2023). Sampling from commercial vessel routes can capture marine biodiversity distributions effectively. Ecology and Evolution, 13, e9810.
  • Valsecchi E, Arcangeli A, Lombardi R, Boyse E, Carr IM, Galli P, Goodman SJ. 2021. Ferries and Environmental DNA: Underway Sampling From Commercial Vessels Provides New Opportunities for Systematic Genetic Surveys of Marine Biodiversity. Frontiers in Marine Science. 8
  • Valsecchi E, Bylemans J, Goodman SJ, Lombardi R, Carr I, Castellano L, Galimberti A, Galli P. 2020. Novel universal primers for metabarcoding environmental DNA surveys of marine mammals and other marine vertebrates. Environmental DNA. 2(4), pp. 460-476
A poster from current PhD student Elizabeth Boyse, describing eDNA results on cetacean and prey species distribution in the Moray Firth, Scotland.