Professor Douglas Yu is Professor of Ecology in the School of Biological Science at UEA. His work focuses on Environmental Impact Assessment – the measurement of the current state of a wildlife species or of the natural environment so that the evidence can be used to inform future policies or decisions. He has been working on innovative measurement methods through DNA capture. DNA sequencing is used to create a rapid and taxonomically comprehensive method of biodiversity assessment called metabarcoding. This has been applied to, for example, monitoring the presence of salmon in rivers in Alaska and to the tracking of animal species in the Paleotropics (through the use of DNA drawn from the digestion contents of leeches). This approach can also be used to assess the impact of bans on wildlife hunting and trade – by identifying whether the banned species has actually expanded. There is potential to use these methods in tracking the presence of viruses in animals (which has significance in light of the transmission of COVID-19).
Doug founded an award-winning spin-off company, NatureMetrics, that specialises in the use of eDNA techniques for environmental monitoring. He is the Principal Investigator and Director of the Ecology, Environment, and Conservation Center (ECEC) at the Kunming Institute of Zoology, Kunming, China. He has a PhD from Harvard University.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Wildlife Hunting Bans
Environmental Impact Assessment
Harvard University: Ph.D. 1997
Harvard University: M.S. 1997
Princeton University: A.B. 1987
Media Appearances (5)
How leeches could help prevent future coronavirus outbreaks: blood suckers provide evidence of wildlife that carry animal viruses
South China Morning Post online
Using the latest biotechnology, a team led by Professor Douglas Yu of Britain’s University of East Anglia extracted DNA from digested blood in leeches’ stomachs, determined what animals they had fed on, and then produced a model of the distribution of wild animals in the Ailao Shan Nature Reserve in Yunnan province.
Where are the bees? Tracking down which flowers they pollinate
Prof Douglas Yu, from UEA's school of Biological Sciences, initially developed the RevMet method. He said: "In standard metagenomics, short stretches of DNA from mixed samples are compared to whole genomes, which can be expensive to generate. We discovered that we could conduct the analysis using 'reference skims' instead.
Turning discarded DNA into ecology gold
Researchers are setting up similar projects with ecotourism companies in the Amazon. Tourists would collect eDNA samples while visiting national parks, thus contributing to long-term biodiversity monitoring. “What you’re doing is you’re taking away the bottleneck of needing expert observers, and then you can study much larger areas,” says Douglas Yu, a molecular ecologist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK.
New 'eDNA' method to help monitor UK aquatic diversity
Company founders include leading scientists Prof Douglas Yu, from UEA's School of Biological Sciences, and Prof Alfried Vogler, from Imperial College London.
Satellite data to map endangered monkey populations on Earth
Professor Douglas W. Yu from the School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, who co-led the research, said: "DNA-based methods are a powerful way to relieve the taxonomic bottleneck in biodiversity assessment, but they are only partially able to relieve the sampling bottleneck. In the end, the only way to cover whole landscapes is to combine satellites, sequencers, and statistics."
Horizon Scan of the Belt and Road InitiativeTrends in Ecology & Evolution
2020 The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) represents the largest infrastructure and development project in human history, and presents risks and opportunities for ecosystems, economies, and communities.
Biodiversity Soup II: A bulk-sample metabarcoding pipeline emphasizing error reductionbioRxiv
2020 Despite widespread recognition of its great promise to aid decision-making in environmental management, the applied use of metabarcoding requires improvements to reduce the multiple errors that arise during PCR amplification, sequencing, and library generation.
SPIKEPIPE: A metagenomic pipeline for the accurate quantification of eukaryotic species occurrences and intraspecific abundance change using DNA barcodes or mitogenomesMolecular Ecology Resources
2020 The accurate quantification of eukaryotic species abundances from bulk samples remains a key challenge for community ecology and environmental biomonitoring. We resolve this challenge by combining shotgun sequencing, mapping to reference DNA barcodes or to mitogenomes, and three correction factors: (a) a percent‐coverage threshold to filter out false positives, (b) an internal‐standard DNA spike‐in to correct for stochasticity during sequencing, and (c) technical replicates to correct for stochasticity across sequencing runs.
Large-scale Quantification of Vertebrate Biodiversity in Ailaoshan Nature Reserve from Leech iDNABioRxiv
2020 Environmental DNA (eDNA) has great potential to complement visual surveys, camera trapping, and bioacoustics in measuring biodiversity. We report here a large-scale attempt to use DNA from leech-ingested bloodmeals to estimate vertebrate occupancy at the scale of an entire protected area: the 677 km2 Ailaoshan national-level nature reserve in Yunnan province, southwest China.
Environmental DNA facilitates accurate, inexpensive, and multi‐year population estimates of millions of anadromous fishMolecular Ecology Resources
2019 Although environmental DNA shed from an organism is now widely used for species detection in a wide variety of contexts, mobilizing environmental DNA for management requires estimation of population size and trends in addition to assessing presence or absence.