Asian Carp and eDNA

In 2009 a team of scientists from the University of Notre Dame and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) discovered that two species of highly invasive Asian Carp were much closer to the Great Lakes than federal and state officials had realized. Those two species, bighead carp and silver carp, have already done extensive environmental damage to the Illinois River—and much of the Mississippi River—by completely altering the food web in sections of those two major watersheds. There has been enormous concern throughout the region that if Asian carp entered the Great Lakes they could severely impair the lakes’ $7 billion annual sport and commercial fishing industries.

Scientists from Notre Dame and The Nature Conservancy located the Asian carp invasion through a cutting-edge technique called “environmental DNA” or “eDNA.” From the summer of 2009 through May of 2010, those scientists collected and analyzed more than 1,000 two-liter water samples from the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal, as well as other water bodies in the Chicago metropolitan area. Then, using a combination of high-tech genetic tools, they sifted those samples to find traces of eDNA from all sorts of species, including Asian carp.

In addition to showing that the invasive fish were much closer to the Great Lakes than people believed, the research showed that eDNA is superior to traditional methods for locating and monitoring aquatic species invasions. While so far the eDNA technology has only been used on alien species like Asian carp, Notre Dame’s scientists believe that the eDNA methodology has strong promise in endangered species detection and monitoring as well. The scientists’ work has now been expanded to a search for Asian carp eDNA throughout large swaths of the Great Lakes watershed.

video platform video management video solutions video player


Research for a sustainable future

Author: Dana Bakirtjy, ND Works

Sustainability is often thought about strictly as an environmental issue: recycling, limiting emissions or protecting wildlife. But sustainability is more than just planting trees and driving hybrid cars. More than 140 faculty members in 36 University departments are currently conducting...

Read More


Author: Alex Gumm

At least one postdoctoral research position is available to pursue collaborative projects in conservation biology that would inform the management and policy of aquatic invasive species. The postdoctoral fellow(s) would join an interdisciplinary team of researchers, contribute to multiple projects,...

Read More

Read All Asian Carp and eDNA News