Development of Standard Operating Procedures for the Detection of Invasive Species of Emerging Concern

Project ID: 1248
Principal Investigator: Jacque Keele
Research Topic: Invasive Species
Funded Fiscal Years: 2016
Keywords: None

Research Question

The emergence of new invasive organisms is always a cause for concern because of the ecological and economic
impacts that begin with the arrival of a new invasive organism. These organisms can displace native species,
impact the food web, and cause damage to facilities. Over the last decade the main focus of the Reclamation
Detection Laboratory for Exotic Species (RDLES) has been on quagga and zebra mussels. Since these highly
invasive mussels arrived in the western United States Reclamation facilities and waters have been negatively
affected. For example, Lake Mead and the Lower Colorado River are infested with quagga mussels that impact the
environment, facilities, and recreation. From RDLES and others work with the mussels, it is understood that the
number one vector for moving these organisms are people. As the human population of the western United States
increases opportunity for the arrival and movement of invasive organisms is increased. Being prepared for a
potential invasive species involves knowing the organisms of concern that could becomes an issue, and having in
place the knowledge of how to identify the organisms by both microscopy and DNA methods.
Two such emerging species of concern are the spiny water flea (Bythotrephes longimanus) and the fishhook water
flea (Cercopagis pengoi). These organisms are making their way into western waters and will impact fish
populations because they feed on the zooplankton that fish feed on, and are causing the decline of native
zooplankton populations. Another example is the Asian carp (which includes nine different carp species the main
ones of concern being the black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) and the silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix))
which can impact native fish populations. There are also toxic algae that can produce blooms that kill fish and
impact human health. By having the methods in place for the identification of emerging invasive species of
concern it is hoped that RDLES can

Need and Benefit

RDLES is the leader in early detection of quagga mussels and needs to expand into testing for additional species of
concern. In order to stay ahead of the next organism of concern, RDLES needs to increase its capabilities which
will allow the laboratory to grow its expertise. This will be done by creating a list of organisms of concern and
identify detection methods. For this scooping project three organisms will be selected and standard operating
procedures for detection will be developed.
Invasive species represent a costly problem both for the economy and the environment. Invasive species cost the
Unites States more than $120 billion in damages each year (Pimental et al. 2005). Quagga and zebra mussels
alone generate $1 billion per year in damages and control costs (Army 2002). Invasive species displace, compete,
and are predators on native species. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service more than 400 of the over 1,300
species currently protected by the Endangered Species Act are considered at risk because of an invasive species.
In addition, invasive species are the leading factor in freshwater fish extinction and endangerments. Aquatic
invasive species can alter the food chain, habitat, water quality, and impact the water industry.
Understanding the methods for detecting potential organisms of concern is important if RDLES is going to stay
relevant and ahead of potential organisms of concern. People are the major vector of introduction of invasive
species. As people continue to move to the western United States and Reclamation waters are used for recreation
the possibility of an introduction of an invasive species rises. In addition, as the climate continues to change in the
West, organisms that were previously hindered by cold weather, can find more areas to invade. Both human and
environmental factors are contributing to the spread of invasive species. These organisms can have devastating
effects on both the environment and economy.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Development of Standard Operating Procedures for the Detection of Invasive Species of Emerging Concern (final, PDF, 938KB)
By Jacque Keele
Publication completed on September 30, 2016

The development of standard operating procedures (SOP) for the detection of invasive aquatic organisms is an ongoing process at Reclamation's Detection Laboratory for Exotic Species (RDLES). Over the last year three organisms of concern (corbicula, spiny water flea, and New Zealand mud snail) were targeted for primer design and testing. This scooping project involved a literature search, and polymerase chain reaction analysis. Primers were designed and tested against positive tissue samples. Not all of the assays were able to give consistent results which means that it will be necessary to redesign and test new primers for the organisms. The lessons learned in this project will be applied to future endeavors as PCR assays are designed and tested for new organisms on interest.


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Last Updated: 4/4/17