MT. PLEASANT — Central Michigan University biology professor Andrew R. Mahon and a group of researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Notre Dame and The Nature Conservancy have identified a genetic method of surveillance to detect the abundance of invasive species in water.
The study is the first to utilize the common genetic technique known as PCR screening to detect the relative abundance of a particular Asian carp species by testing for residual environmental DNA in water samples.
The findings of their recent study have been published in PLOS ONE, the electronic journal of the Public Library of Science, an open-access publisher of research from all areas of science. Access the article here .
“Our study shows the percentage of DNA positive samplings we find is directly related to the number of that particular species of fish in the water,” said Mahon, lead scientist on the study. “This validates the use of eDNA surveillance sensitivity for the detection of multiple species of Asian carps in water systems.”
Researchers compared genetic material found in water samples to the number of fish found in a 2.6-mile stretch of river in the Chicago canal system after it was treated with retenone and the fish carcasses were collected.
“Our results showed a positive correlation between the number of genetic samples and the abundance of fish after the canal was treated,” said Mahon.
This testing provides another tool for environmental management agencies to use in determining whether invasive species are present in the water.
“This genetic testing method, along with other traditional options currently being used such as netting, electro fishing, and hook and line sampling, offers an additional tool for detecting invasive species and one more option in the battle against these species getting into our waterways,” said Mahon.
USGS Southeast Ecological Science Center scientists Margaret Hunter and Leo Nico are co-authors on the study, providing expertise, genetic samples and information on black carp.

Read the article at and watch a video about the story at