Scientists look to new methods for invasive mussel detection - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Scientists look to new methods for invasive mussel detection

Posted: Jan 09, 2018 10:20 AM Updated: Jan 09, 2018 10:20 AM

POLSON - Scientists believe they might have found a useful tool in efforts to help detect and stop the spread of invasive mussels in Montana and into the Columbia Basin. But agencies say its not going to immediately replace boat inspections and plankton sampling as the first steps to find mussels.

"When you're looking for the new arrival of an invasive species it's always a needle in a haystack and you could find or miss them with any technique that you're using," said Flathead Lake Biological Station Assistant Director Tom Bansak.

Bansak says that with early detection key for prevention, it's critical for scientists to use every technique possible to test Montana's waters for invasive mussels and sample as frequently as funding allows.

"The limiting factor is going to be how much money do we have to look because the more you look the more likely you are to find whether you're using Villager microscopy or Environmental DNA [eDNA]," Bansak said.

Using eDNA sampling, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks detected invasive mussel DNA in the Tiber Reservoir last year. However, results from the eDNA sampling revealed no presence of adult mussels -- also known as villagers.

"Even though there were no Villagers were found in the state's sampling this summer that does not mean there are no Zebras and Quaggas there," Bansak told MTN News

Biologists with the Flathead Lake Biological Station have already been using eDNA technology to test Flathead Lake for the presence of invasive mussels, "we've been testing 40-plus lakes -- including Flathead -- for five or six years now using eDNA technology," Bansak explained.

While the samples are not conclusive, just how to interpret and respond to those results has aquatic invasive specialists calling for a scientific advisory panel.

"I think a scientific advisory panel would help interpret results from new techniques like environmental DNA and they could also help guide future uses and actions by the management agencies with emerging and developing technologies," Bansak said.

FWP officials report more than 85,000 vessels were inspected last year with 17 contaminated boats bringing mussels in from out-of-state. State wildlife officials are calling eDNA testing an “emerging technology” that’s still being researched, b will continue to rely on plankton sampling in 2018.

RELATED: Biologists check Flathead Lake for invasive mussels

RELATED: Montana mussel invasion expected to cost millions

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