Infrastructure projects routinely include biological monitoring surveys for the assessment of rare, keystone, or invasive species to support permitting efforts. Characterizing biodiversity typically requires time-intensive surveys to physically capture organisms of interest, with field crews trained in morphological identification. However, recent genetic technical advancements through the analysis of environmental DNA (eDNA—genetic material released from an organism) has become a promising tool for biomonitoring purposes. This method provides detection of organisms without the need to capture or even see them within the environment, often exhibiting increased sensitivity compared to conventional methodology.
Although most progress has occurred for aquatic applications, advancements are focusing on terrestrial environments, including the collection of eDNA from air. While the breadth of eDNA research is promising, current uncertainties and drawbacks have impeded widespread regulatory acceptance of eDNA-based evidence to support permitting and project approvals. We discuss recent advancements for eDNA applications across environments and the path toward incorporating eDNA tools into linear infrastructure projects that require regulatory review. We will provide Stantec case studies and real-world examples for implementing eDNA methodology for biomonitoring surveys, and explore the development of guidelines/standards for eDNA applications to meet environmental mandates by federal and state government agencies.