Rapid Molecular Detection of Invasive Species in Ballast and Harbor Water by Integrating Environmental DNA and Light Transmission Spectroscopy
Invasive species introduced via the ballast water of commercial ships cause enormous environmental and economic damage worldwide. Accurate monitoring for these often microscopic and morphologically indistinguishable species is challenging but critical for mitigating damages. We apply eDNA sampling, which involves the filtering and subsequent DNA extraction of microscopic bits of tissue suspended in water, to ballast and harbor water sampled during a commercial shipﾒs 1400 km voyage through the North American Great Lakes. Using a lab-based gel electrophoresis assay and a rapid, field-ready light transmission spectroscopy (LTS) assay, we test for the presence of two invasive species: quagga (Dreissena bugensis) and zebra (D. polymorpha) mussels. Furthermore, we spiked a set of uninfested ballast and harbor samples with zebra mussel tissue to further test each assayﾒs detection capabilities. In unmanipulated samples, zebra mussel was not detected, while quagga mussel was detected in all samples at a rate of 85% for the gel assay and 100% for the LTS assay. In the spiked experimental samples, both assays detected zebra mussel in 94% of spiked samples and 0% of negative controls. Overall, these results demonstrate that eDNA sampling is effective for monitoring ballast-mediated invasions and that LTS has the potential for rapid, field-based detection.