Scientific Staff – University of Copenhagen

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Philip Francis Thomsen

Philip Francis Thomsen

Assistant professor

  • Natural History Museum of Denmark

    Øster Voldgade 5-7, 1350 København K, Forhus 5-7

    Phone: +45 35 32 13 74

My research interests are mainly focused on the applications of DNA from environmental samples in both freshwater and marine environments. Environmental DNA (eDNA) – DNA obtained directly from water, soil etc. – has proven a successful avenue in describing species compositions in contemporary environments, since it is cost-efficient and non-invasive. Coupled to high-throughput DNA sequencing, it is now possible to study entire species assemblages in aquatic ecosystems using a bottle of water. We are aiming to explore the use of eDNA for addressing fundamental research questions in ecology and conservation along with applied aspects of monitoring and management of aquatic resources. I also work with diverse topics such as animal evolution, ecology and conservation.

I have a great deal of experience in traditional ecological fieldwork covering national monitoring of endangered insect species on the EU Habitat Directive and has contributed to international and national redlisting of threatened species. Furthermore, I am an active amateur entomologist. My main interest is beetles, especially distribution, ecology and conservation of Danish Coleoptera.

Current research

Environmental DNA from aquatic samples

We work with detection and quantification of selected animal species through DNA in small water samples from both freshwater and marine habitats. Several different animal groups – amphibians, fish, mammals, birds, insects and crustaceans – have shown detectable using eDNA from freshwater samples. In seawater, we have been working with coastal fish assemblages, deep sea Greenlandic communities as well as population genetic inferences of whale sharks from water samples offshore Qatar. 

Further reading

Environmental DNA overview

Thomsen PF, Willerslev E (2015). Environmental DNA – an emerging tool in conservation for monitoring past and present biodiversity. Biological Conservation 183, 4-18.

Marine eDNA

Sigsgaard EE, Nielsen IB, Bach SS, Lorenzen ED, Robinson DP, Knudsen SW, Pedersen MW, Al Jaidah M, Orlando L, Willerslev E, Møller PR, Thomsen PF (2016). Population characteristics of a large whale shark aggregation inferred from seawater environmental DNA. Nature Ecology & Evolution 1, 0004.

Thomsen PF, Møller PR, Sigsgaard EE, Knudsen SW, Jørgensen OA, Willerslev E (2016) Environmental DNA from Seawater Samples Correlate with Trawl Catches of Subarctic, Deepwater Fishes. PLOS ONE 11(11), e0165252.

Thomsen PF, Kielgast J, Iversen LL, Møller PR, Rasmussen M, Willerslev E (2012).Detection of a Diverse Marine Fish Fauna using Environmental DNA from Seawater Samples. PLOS ONE 7(8), e41732.

Foote AD, Thomsen PF, Sveegaard S, Wahlberg M, Kielgast J, Kyhn LA, Salling AB, Galatius A, Orlando L, Willerslev E, Gilbert MTP (2012). Investigating the Potential Use of Environmental DNA(eDNA) for Genetic Monitoring of Marine Mammals. PLOS ONE. 7(8), e41781.

Freshwater eDNA

Thomsen PF, Kielgast J, Iversen LL, Wiuf C, Rasmussen M, Gilbert MTP, Orlando L, Willerslev E (2012) Monitoring Endangered Freshwater Biodiversity using Environmental DNA. Molecular Ecology 21, 2565-2573.

Sigsgaard EE, Carl H, Møller PR, Thomsen PF (2015). Monitoring the near-extinct European weather loach Misgurnus fossilis in Denmark by combining traditional fishing surveys and environmental DNA from water samples. Biological Conservation 183, 46-52.

Valentini A, Taberlet P, Miaud C, Civade R, Herder J, Thomsen PF, Bellemain E, Besnard A, Coissac E, Boyer F, Gaboriaud C, Jean P, Poulet N, Roset N, Copp GH, Geniez P, Pont D, Argillier C, Baudoin J-M, Peroux T, Crivelli AJ, Olivier A, Acqueberge M, Le Brun M, Møller PR, Willerslev E, Dejeanet T (2016). Next-generation monitoring of aquatic biodiversity using environmental DNA metabarcoding. Molecular Ecology 25, 929-942. 

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