Microscopic flecks of DNA — from insects, amoebas and mushrooms — could help tell the story of a forest trying to regrow to its former might.

Forest forensics, part of a fast-growing field called environmental DNA, will tell researchers what’s living in a particular space, which, in turn, tells forest managers if what they’re doing is working there.

Katherine Strickler.

Environmental DNA, a monitoring technique developed about a decade ago, is growing “exponentially” in use, said Katherine Strickler, a research scientist and instructor in the School for the Environment at Washington State University.

Such analyses can identify hundreds, if not thousands, of creatures who left pieces of themselves behind in the soil in roughly a week’s time. They allow scientists to catalog entire communities, or the richness of life in a given spot.

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The Seattle Times