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Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Environmental DNA and the study of marine biological invasions

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Genetic techniques have recently generated revolutionary opportunities for research. A rapidly emerging example is the study of environmental DNA (eDNA) that in conjunction with high throughput analyses allow the detection of inconspicuous or rare species, which may later expand their ranges and become problematic.

Biological invasions are responsible for a wide-range of economic and conservation problems. Studies have shown that the earlier an invasive species is detected, the more cost-effective and quicker it is to control or eradicate. Therefore, research aimed at successfully detecting and managing invasive species has the potential to considerably mitigate their effects, as well as reveal ecological and evolutionary mechanisms occurring during the invasion process.

Recent development of advanced molecular biology techniques has generated revolutionary opportunities for research. A rapidly emerging example is the study of environmental DNA (eDNA) that in conjunction with high throughput analyses allow the characterisation of species composition and biodiversity monitoring of entire communities. The study of eDNA allows the detection of inconspicuous or rare species, which may later expand their ranges and become problematic.

This project will produce standardised eDNA protocols to rapidly and reliably detect marine non-indigenous species that occur in introduction hotspots (harbours and marinas). These methods will directly benefit key economic activities such as aquaculture and shipping by providing an early warning system to detect and monitor the presence of problematic species. In addition, this project will provide genetic and analytical protocols to compare populations across different spatial scales.

This project has been funded by SPITFIRE

Associated research themes

Ecology and Evolution Lab

Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory, Bangor University

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