Asian carp are infiltrating major American waterways with the potential to greatly alter entire freshwater ecosystems. Where are they going? A National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science-sponsored scientist–Dr. David Lodge of the University of Notre Dame– and his research team have developed genetic marker risk assessment tools for predicting where invaders such as Asian carp may show up next and to help understand how invasive species spread. Plants and animals shed cellular material in their surrounding environment, and this material can be collected and filtered from water samples.
Much like DNA is used at a crime scene, traces of DNA extracted from environmental samples (i.e., environmental DNA or ‘eDNA’) can determine if a target species has been in the area. Dr. Lodge is leading a major NCCOS study in the Great Lakes to forecast the spread of aquatic invasive species, and just as important, their economic impacts.
The David Lodge research team eDNA work is highlighted in the special TV episode ‘Carp Invasion’ on the National Geographic Channel’s popular program ‘Hooked.’