DNA Water system Scan & Reference Tool

Michiel Hootsmans PhD MSc

  • Start date
    01 Jan 2015
  • End date
    31 Dec 2017
  • collaborating partners
    Aqua lab Zuid, KWR Watercycle Research Institute, Naturalis en Royal HaskoningDHV

The identification of aquatic organisms through DNA barcode information has accelerated greatly over the past few years. Worldwide, DNA barcodes of a multiplicity of species have been collected and made available via publicly accessible databases. A rapid and reliable identification permits the development of lists of species which can then be connected to species-specific information in information banks, such as information about their ecological role, their significance for water quality, and for socio-economic or policy decisions.


The objective of this project is to develop a framework for an expert system in which biodiversity information is determined and translated into indicators for ecological water quality. The input for the system consists of taxonomic sample identification (a species list for instance), based on DNA analysis (DNA barcodes) or a morphological analysis (classic). The indicators support water managers in their decision-making in the technical, socio-economic and regulatory areas.


Work is done on a description of a set of components that constitute the framework for a knowledge integration tool which, on the basis of the specific wishes and requirement of users, connects biodiversity data with information available from knowledge databanks. The tool can thus determine the significance of an observed biodiversity for various objectives, including the reliability as a consequence of observed variations. The tool’s analysis component makes use of various apps which could also, in principle, following the termination of this project, be developed by third parties. The apps receive data streams from a central data platform according to a standardised exchange protocol: an interface which connects and consults available databanks. The analysis component can however also be fed with data from sources separate from the data platform, for example, with locally available data. Components will be developed whenever possible to test the functional design and structure set.

This two-year project involves the following activities:
•Inventory of important knowledge questions for (end-)users (demand articulation).
•Research into suitability and availability of knowledge databanks.
•Inventory and description of functional requirements for data analysis tools.
•Development of underlying structure (framework) for intended research software.
•Testing and assessment of preliminary results with (end-) users.
•Support-development, exchange of knowledge and experience.


A framework for an expert system in which all kinds of information, jointly and weighted according to relative reliability, is analysed and summarised. The system seeks connection with existing instruments in the area of policy and implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), such as the monitoring and steering system and the WFD Explorer. Thus the impact of measures, and the feasibility, of WFD objectives can be determined more precisely.