Students Engaging the Environment Collaborate to Assess Aquatic Invasive Species

Friday, February 8, 2019

Invasive fish species pose a significant threat to aquaculture, fisheries, the sport fishing industry, water resources, and the environment.

Researchers at Cornell University have developed an efficient citizen science-based mechanism for widespread early detection and monitoring of invasive fish. Water samples collected by student citizen scientists across the state are analyzed for environmental DNA (eDNA) from several invasive fish species. eDNA samples are analyzed at Cornell University and results are displayed on interactive Google maps on the internet. A summary of the eDNA analysis and test results are returned to the classroom to facilitate learning and further discussion of invasive fish related issues.

In this pilot program, 100 teachers and over 2,500 students at 87 schools have successfully used project kits to collect eDNA as part of an expandable collaborative model that allows economical statewide monitoring of invasive fish. Curriculum has been designed around kit use to increase student interest in and understanding of the impacts of invasive species on native biodiversity and ecosystem function. It also addresses the resultant impacts on economically important industries like aquaculture, freshwater fisheries, sport fishing, and tourism. Hands-on involvement in monitoring local waters highlights the need for prevention to limit the spread of invasive fish. As part of this new program, 253 sites across NY have been tested for eDNA to determine the presence of invasive round goby, four species of Asian carp, and sea lamprey. Preliminary tests for the presence of snakehead fish have also been successfully carried out. All data is displayed on interactive maps on the Fishtracker program website providing a valuable resource that will aid in the development of a broad invasive fish management strategy.

NIFA supports this research through the Hatch Act.

Read more about this project through NIFA's Data Gateway.

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Related Information

U.S. States and Territories:
New York