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Comparing in situ Detection of Invasive Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) Using Environmental DNA and Detection Canines in Texas Reservoirs

March 15 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Collaborative Conservation and Adaptation Strategy Toolbox (CCAST) 
Announcing Two CCAST Webinars in March

Comparing in situ Detection of Invasive Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) Using Environmental DNA and Detection Canines in Texas Reservoirs

Date: Wednesday, March 15th, 2023

Time: 10:00 AM Pacific/11:00 AM Mountain/12:00 PM Central

Presenters: Debi Deshon, Mussel Dogs, and Matthew Barnes, Texas Tech University

Zoom Webinar Registration:  



Early detection and rapid response represent cornerstones of effective management of biological invasions in freshwater ecosystems, and tools that increase the sensitivity and efficiency of species detection benefit such efforts. We compared the sensitivity of two methods for in situ detection of invasive zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) in central Texas reservoirs: environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis and canine detection. Although eDNA analysis is regularly applied to environmental samples in zebra mussel detection and management programs, canine detection is typically limited to inspection for adult mussels on watercraft, and our work represents one of the first attempts to detect veligers (i.e., free-swimming larval stages) and other microscopic zebra mussel material in environmental samples. We collected veligers from Canyon Lake, Texas and prepared a dilution series of veliger concentrations in both spring water and filtered lake water. From these samples, we quantified zebra mussel eDNA with a species-specific hydrolysis probe qPCR assay. We assessed sensitivity of six canines using a blind olfactometer and software-automated adaptive threshold procedure. Comparison of methods will reveal strengths and weaknesses of each approach and help develop the most efficient and sensitive approach (or combination of approaches) for invasive species detection.

About the Speakers:

Debi Deshon is the owner and founder of Mussel Dogs and is passionate about animals and our environment. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Business and Management from UC Davis and an Associate’s degree in Exotic Animal Training and Management from Moorpark College. She has been a canine handler since 1996 and a handler trainer since 2000. Debi has also owned Interquest Detection Canines of Central Valley California since 1999.

Matthew Barnes is an Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Resources Management at Texas Tech University, where his research and teaching focus on aquatic ecology, management of biological invasions, and environmental DNA. Before arriving at Texas Tech in 2014, Barnes earned his PhD from the University of Notre Dame and a BA degree in biology and sociology from Southwestern University, a liberal arts university in Georgetown, Texas.



March 15
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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