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Lynsey Harper, PhD

Hi there! I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Mariani Lab working on the SpongeDNA project. Marine sponges are natural filters that trap particles in their tissues, including DNA released by animals into the water column (i.e. environmental DNA, eDNA). Using aquaria and field experiments, I will develop and optimise DNA metabarcoding of sponge tissue (i.e. natural sampler DNA, nsDNA). I will compare novel nsDNA metabarcoding with aqueous eDNA metabarcoding, and evaluate the potential applications and limitations of this approach for marine biodiversity assessment.


I hold a PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Hull, UK; an MSc in Quantitative Methods in Biodiversity, Conservation & Epidemiology from the University of Glasgow, UK; and a BSc (Hons) in Zoology from the University of Glasgow, UK. Prior to joining the Mariani Lab, I held postdoctoral positions in the EvoHull group at the University of Hull, UK, and at the Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.


I am an aquatic ecologist with a strong interest in both freshwater and marine ecosystems, community ecology, and the development of new tools for biodiversity monitoring. I am excited to be involved in the innovative and fast-paced field of eDNA metabarcoding. I believe this tool has enormous potential for biodiversity monitoring in aquatic environments to map multi-species distribution, estimate multi-species occupancy, reveal species associations, construct ecological networks, and improve biomonitoring. I am keen to advance eDNA metabarcoding in terms of methodological development, standardisation, and application to ecological questions in order to better inform biodiversity conservation, management and policy. Sponge nsDNA metabarcoding could be the next piece of this puzzle and bypass the issues encountered with aqueous eDNA capture in marine environments, including small water volumes, dilution effects, time-consuming filtration and plastic waste, and resource-intensive automated underwater vehicles.


To find out more about my scientific outputs and me, check out:


Twitter: @lynseyrharper


Google Scholar:

Research Gate:



  • Sales, N.G., McKenzie, M.B., Drake, J., Harper, L.R., Browett, S.S., Coscia, I., Wangensteen, O.S., Baillie, C., Bryce, E., Dawson, D.A., Ochu, E., Hänfling, B., Lawson Handley, L., Mariani, S., Lambin, X., Sutherland, C. & McDevitt, A.D. (2020) Landscape-level monitoring of terrestrial and semi-aquatic communities using eDNA from lotic ecosystems. Journal of Applied Ecology, 57, 707–716.

  • Blackman, R.C., Benucci, M., Donnelly, R.C., Hänfling, B., Harper, L.R., Sellers, G.S. & Lawson Handley, L. (2020) Simple, sensitive and species-specific assays for detecting quagga and zebra mussels (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis and D. polymorpha) using environmental DNA. Management of Biological Invasions, 11, 218–236.

  • Harper, K.J., Goodwin, K.D., Harper, L.R., LaCasella, E.L., Frey, A. & Dutton, P.H. (2020) Finding Crush: environmental DNA analysis as a tool for tracking the green sea turtle Chelonia mydas in a marine estuary. Frontiers in Marine Science, 6, 810.

  • Harper, L.R., Lawson-Handley, L., Hahn, C., Boonham, N., Rees, H.C., Lewis, E., Adams, I.P., Brotherton, P., Phillips, S. & Hänfling, B (2019). Generating and testing ecological hypotheses at the pondscape with environmental DNA metabarcoding: A case study on a threatened amphibian. Environmental DNA, 2, 184–199.

  • Harper, L.R., Lawson Handley, L., Carpenter, A.I., Ghazali, M., Di Muri, C., Macgregor, C.J., Logan, T.L, Law, A., Breithaupt, T., Read, D.S, McDevitt, A.D. & Hänfling, B (2019). Environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding of pond water as a tool to survey conservation and management priority mammals in the UK. Biological Conservation, 238, 108225.

  • Li., J., Lawson Handley, L., Harper, L.R., Brys, R., Watson, H.V., Di Muri, C., Zhang, X. & Hänfling, B (2019). Limited dispersion and quick degradation of environmental DNA in fish ponds inferred by metabarcoding. Environmental DNA, 1, 238–250.

  • Harper, L.R., Buxton, A.S., Rees, H.C., Bruce, K., Brys, R., Halfmaerten, D., Read, D.S., Watson, H.V., Sayer, C.D., Jones, E.P., Priestley, V., Mächler, E., Múrria, C., Garcés-Pastor, S., Medupin, C., Burgess, K., Benson, G., Boonham, N., Griffiths, R.A., Lawson Handley, L., & Hänfling, B. (2019) Prospects and challenges of environmental DNA (eDNA) monitoring in freshwater ponds. Hydrobiologia, 826, 25-41.

  • Harper, L.R., Griffiths, N.P., Lawson Handley, L., Sayer, C.D., Read, D.S., Harper, K.J., Blackman, R.C., Li, J., & Hänfling, B. (2019) Development and application of environmental DNA surveillance for the threatened crucian carp (Carassius carassius). Freshwater Biology, 64, 93–107.

  • Harper, L.R., Downie, J.R., & McNeill, D.C. (2019) Assessment of habitat and survey criteria for the great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) in Scotland: a case study on a translocated population. Hydrobiologia, 828, 57–71.

  • Harper, L.R., Downie, J.R., & McNeill, D.C. (2018) Great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) populations are not one and the same: Scottish newts respond differently to Habitat Suitability Index and abiotic factors. The Glasgow Naturalist, 27. 1-2.

  • Harper, L.R., Lawson-Handley, L., Hahn, C., Boonham, N., Rees, H.C., Gough, K., Lewis, E., Adams, I.P., Brotherton, P., Phillips, S. & Hänfling, B. (2018) Needle in a haystack? A comparison of eDNA metabarcoding and targeted qPCR for detection of the great crested newt (Triturus cristatus). Ecology and Evolution, 8, 6330–6341.

  • Harper, L.R., McNeill, D.C., & Downie, J.R. (2017) The latest chapter in a conservation story: completing 10 years of post-translocation monitoring for a population of great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) in Scotland. The Glasgow Naturalist, 26, 29-44.

  • Harper, L.R., Downie, J.R., Muir, M., & White, S.A. (2016) What can Expeditions do for Students… and for Science? An Investigation into the Impact of University of Glasgow Exploration Society Expeditions. Journal of Biological Education, 51, 3-16. 

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