Knowledge in

Reconstructing diets and using
environmental DNA to advance
ecological understanding.


Diet Reconstruction

We can quantitatively reconstruct the diet of herbivores, omnivores, and certain carnivores. We can reconstruct what plants or invertebrates animals have eaten, and are rapidly expanding our capabilities to other organisms.

Next Generation Sequencing

DNA in fecal material is PCR-amplified and sequenced using the latest Next Generation Sequencing techniques. The sequences are compared to proprietary and public databases and the proportion of the diet that is represented by each species is generated.

Why quantify diet?

The diet of animals determines their ability to grow, fight off disease, and reproduce. Many rare species from birds to bison rely seasonally on unique plant species. Invasive species can displace native species by consuming their preferred plants or animals.


To date we have provided services for academic researchers, hospitals, conservation agencies and federal agencies. We have reconstructed the diets of everything from bison to grasshoppers to prairie chickens.

Pollen sequencing

The pollen of plants contains chloroplast DNA that can be sequenced. We are able to quantify the assemblages of pollen in air samples, surface samples, or sediments of up to a few thousand years. Plant DNA on environmental surfaces can also be quantified with out techniques.

And More…

We understand that many cases require specialized procedures. Our application scientists are available to consult on individual projects, tailor sampling and analysis protocols, and help develop new techniques. Contact us to discuss your projects.

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I remember the famous limnologist G. Evelyn Hutchinson was once mocked as supposedly believing that he could determine all there was to know about a lake simply by sticking one, perhaps two, fingers in a lake. I am not sure how many fingers it would take, but with environmental DNA one can convince themselves that we… Read More

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One power of reconstructing diets with sequencing is to know what an animal had recently ate. Even more powerful is reconstructing diets for a large number of animals to infer how diets change over space or time. In the global change world, it is an open question about how warming will affect the diets of animals.… Read More

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Recent work by Noah Fierer and others (Craine et al. in press Aerobiologia) examined the distributions of plant DNA in dust inside and outside homes across the US. They sequenced of a chloroplast marker gene to identify the plant DNA found in settled dust collected on indoor and outdoor surfaces across 459 homes. The reported research shows a… Read More

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Just a quick note here. We had run some tests on mixtures of plants to see how representative our DNA data are of the relative proportions of the biomass of different three species that were mixed together. We put together 10 mixtures of leaves of 4 plant species. 2 were alfalfa, 1 was lotus, 1 was Onobrychis. Mixtures… Read More

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We recently had a request to sequence the diets of granivorous birds. This time, instead of fecals, we’d get crop samples. Grinding up tiny seeds can be difficult. Mortar and pestles are tough to use and have the risk of contamination. We started using disposable tubes with disposable steel beads to grind the samples. This goes in the… Read More

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Water quality changes quickly, which can make it difficult to assess. Scientists have long relied on the biological communities of water to serve as indicators of water quality integrated over time. These are typically invertebrates or fish. But each taxa indicates different aspects of water quality and some aspects of water quality might not be well indicated… Read More

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