Frequently Asked Questions & Glossary

Q. Do I need to download an app now?

No-- we will send you a link for the webform once we know where you're going to sample.

Q. Do you have any guides to California wildlife?

You can access our iNaturalist project & guides here:

CALeDNA iNaturalist Project Page

Amphibian & Reptile Guide

Bird Guide

Fish Guide

Mammal Guide

Q. How long will it take my eDNA kit to arrive?

We'll be coordinating by email, so you should receive the details that way. It's sent via Fedex so typically takes just 2 days after we've discussed the sampling plan and determined what should go in your kit.

Q. How should I store my eDNA kit after sampling?

Try to send the CALeDNA kit back to us as soon as possible.  If you will do this within 1 day of sampling keep the CALeDNA kit somewhere safe, at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.  If it will take you a couple of days to send the CALeDNA kit back to us keep it in the refrigerator. 

Q. How quickly should I send back my eDNA kit?

As quickly as possible. DNA degrades over time and microbial communities can change quickly, especially in novel environments like the collection tube so sending your CALeDNA kit back as quickly as possible is vital. We have included a return mailing postage sticker or a PDF. If you didn't get one, email us!  

Q. What is the experimental design?

You get to choose! We ask that you choose sites where you collect from different habitats if possible. Three replicate tubes are used at a single site. Replicate tubes are labeled R1,R2,R3 and should be collected 1 foot (30cm) apart from each other.

Q. What should I take on a sampling trip?

  • CALeDNA kit
  • Backpack
  • Water
  • Food
  • Map
  • Compass and/or trail map
  • First aid kit (sometimes this is available at UC Reserves)
  • Appropriate clothing and footwear - layers are best, and make sure your shoes are well worn in
  • Phone or tablet - with the CALeDNA app on it



eDNA - DNA deposited by animals, plants and microbes in the environment as they exist/pass through it.  For example, it can contain a mixture of skin cells, fur, feces, blood, pollen, and leaves in tiny fragments in soil or sediment. The DNA may still be in the fragments or it may be loose and just chemically bound to soil particles.

Location - One of 3 main areas visited to collect samples.  Within each location you will choose 2 sites and take 3 replicate samples at each site.

Replicate - One of multiple samples taken at a single site.  We take multiple samples at the same site because obtaining DNA from a single species in multiple replicates provides stronger evidence of presence than a single sample which may have been accidentally contaminated.

Sample - Soil or sediment collected in the field and sent back to CALeDNA for genetic analyses.

Sediment - Organic matter and sand, silt, or clay that settles below the water.

Site - Area within a location where samples are collected.  There are two sites per location and 3 samples taken per site.

Soil - A mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquid and organisms that supports life on earth.  We want you to take samples of surface soil so no digging is required.

ASV - amplicon sequence variant. This is a unique DNA sequence obtained after sequencing eDNA. We get hundreds of thousands of sequences back for each sample, and sort them into unique bins called ASVs. Then we compare each ASV to public sequences obtained from different species and report its closest match.

Field Project - Usually a season, bioblitz, or region of California where we had a flurry of sampling activity. A field project may be, for example, to 'get eDNA from areas experiencing the superbloom'. 

Research Project - A research project is a selected assortment of samples from one or multiple field projects that address a research question. They may become part of a scientific publication.

IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources is an international organization focused on the conservation and sustainability of natural resources. They do report assessments of how stable or endangered species are. They have not yet assessed nearly all species that need to be monitored. 

Sample processing - This means we're doing lab work! Your samples are being extracted for DNA, and prepared for sequencing in a laborious careful process. Undergraduates, grad students, technicians, or postdocs may be working on your samples.