Principal Investigator: 
Benoit Van Aken (
Temple University
The widespread occurrence of aquatic invasive species (AIS) is a worldwide environmental issue causing disruption to local communities, threatening biodiversity, and impacting the intended uses of water bodies. Morphological methods for the early detection and identification of AIS are laborious and time-consuming, allowing exotic species to become well established and widespread. Late detection of AIS may therefore impair the timely application of effective eradication plans.  Because of their extreme specificity and sensitivity, molecular biology methods have raised high interest for the early detection of AIS and they are increasingly recognized as valuable decision making tools. All macroscopic aquatic organisms release small amounts of organic material harboring DNA sequences that are unique to each species. Analyzing environmental DNA (eDNA) in water for the identification of such unique markers is therefore a powerful strategy for detecting low density of AIS in a water body. Real-time PCR methods have been successfully applied for tracing the presence of various animal AIS, including Asian carps, zebra mussel larvae, and bullfrogs. However, the use of molecular methods for detecting aquatic invasive plant species has not yet been documented.
The objective of the proposed research is to develop and optimize an innovative technology based on real-time PCR for the early detection of selected plant and algal AIS in Delaware and Susquehanna watersheds. Invasive species selected for this study include three aquatic plants, Myriophyllum spicatum, Trapa natans, and Hydrilla verticillata, and the alga, Didymosphenia geminata. These species were selected because they are difficult to identify based on visual methods (especially following introduction when the populations are small) and they currently represent an environmental threat for PA watersheds.
Research Year: 
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Current or Past research?: 
Current Research

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