Notre Dame receives grant to fight invasive species

Author: Kristin Bien, WSBT

Scott Egan

VIDEO: Notre Dame getting involved in fight to protect Great Lakes

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Notre Dame is getting involved in the fight to protect the Great Lakes.

The university has received a $599,931 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to develop technology for early detection of invasive species in the Great Lakes.

"By stopping these species we can stop the ecological costs, but also have some ecenomic effects on this region," says Scott Egan, a research assistant professor in the biology department and the lead researcher on the project.

"So for us, early detection is critical -- before these organisms can start replicating and generating large populations," says Egan, "the earlier we can detect them, we can decrease the money it takes to solve the problem, maybe even get them before they get here."

Egan will be looking for environmental DNA of aquatic species -- any sloughed cells or microscopic tissues left behind in the water. Egan will filter that DNA from the water and test it to determine what invasive species exist there. With the grant money, Egan will be creating the tools to do those tests. This process has been successfully used to detect Asian Carp.

According to a news release from the university, with the grant money, researchers will test for high-risk invasive species threatening the Great Lakes region, including mussels, snails, crayfish and plants such as Hydrilla. The research will develop novel genetic markers for environmental DNA detection of these high-risk invasive species.

Notre Dame physicists will be collaborating on the project. Their role is to create what is called a Laser Transmission Spectroscopy. It is a suitcase-size device that will allow researchers to detect species in the field.