Technology

Automated sampling: The current preferred method for detection of infestation is veliger identification via plankton net sampling; however, this process is labor intensive and cannot effectively be scaled with current budgets to provide early detection and prevention of infestation. Targeted sampling at the most likely points of infestation increases the likelihood of detecting an infestation in the early stages of colony formation when the invasive organism is still considered an uncommon species. To achieve the goal of substantially increased, targeted sampling, and mitigate the labor intensive cost associated with sampling, Specialty Devices Inc.’s EQO division has launched an automated system capable of collecting and storing plankton samples of various sizes for later collection and shipment for laboratory analysis. The automated sampler technology consists of an anchored installation with a carousel of sample collection filter cartridges, sample and storage system, and a discrete depth sample intake. Once installed, this system is easily programmed for collection time and volume and requires minimal work to remove collected samples and replace with new filter cartridges. This methodology allows for more frequent sampling of high risk areas with minimal staff resources, thereby substantially increasing the ability to detect, prevent, and treat invasive mussel infestation. Early detection of invasive mussels is currently the most effective method of prevention and protection of water resources, though a significant expansion in sampling is necessary to achieve true early detection. Automation of the field sampling process significantly improves efforts to detect invasive mussels prior to infestation.

EQO’s zebra mussel detection services utilize versatile and automated collection methodologies to best serve your needs and a revolutionary analysis platform only available through EQO. Our revolutionary platform utilizes years of bioengineering, diagnostic, and molecular biology assay development experience to produce a system with the highest possible sensitivity and specificity for the detection and quantitation of zebra mussel larvae in the water column. The system is universally flexible in regard to collection methodology and can be performed as an automated monitoring system, or as a CRO sample analysis service. The assay is capable of detecting and quantifying the presence of whole larvae, eggs, sperm, remnants of larvae, population life cycle and activity indicators, etc. with absolute species specificity from environmental samples with any combination of non-target organisms.

SENSITIVITY

  • The detection methodology EQO has developed shows unprecedented sensitivity that far exceeds currently available methods.
  • This detection is not simply a positive or negative output, it is highly quantitative data with validated, femtogram (fg) level, DNA resolution and sensitivity (fg = grams).
  • This weight is far less than the weight of a single zebra mussel genome and EQO’s results clearly show that our zebra mussel monitoring platform reliably detects the presence and quantity of biomarkers, even at extremely low quantities.
  • The high sensitivity also allows EQO to have unprecedented levels of granularity so we can track, quantify, and characterize zebra mussel populations over time.

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SPECIFICITY

  • In microscopy, being highly specific about only counting zebra mussel larvae is very challenging, this is why others use DNA analysis to verify that zebra mussels are present
  • Where Microscopy yields quantitative data (how many), PCR yields qualitative data (is it really there). A good assay needs to be both qualitative and quantitative.
  • EQO’s sensitivity allows us to be more quantitative than any other system, our specificity allows us to be more specific than other systems on the market.
  • To achieve this best in market specificity, EQO has developed a proprietary dual algorithm design methodology capable of producing specificity at the species and sub-species level with zero non-target species signal.

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IN PRACTICE

  • Early in the development stage, EQO found some evidence that a lake with a low probability for infestation may have traces of zebra mussel DNA, however, traditional methods of analysis were unable to verify this.
  • Our methodology was not only able to verify this, we were able to quantify it, compare between sample dates, and draw conclusions about the nature of the zebra mussel content.

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  • We clearly see that the content of zebra mussel DNA is incredibly low in both samples, but this signal does significantly differ from the negative control.
  • We also see that from March to April, a time frame in which veliger content in established zebra mussel colonies begins to increase exponentially, the concentration drops by a statistically significant amount.
  • This signifies that though zebra mussels were detected at this site, this signal does not indicate the presence of a zebra mussel infestation, rather it indicates that some boats using the ramp and/or the marina have introduced zebra mussel DNA at some point, most likely multiple times.
  • We can conclude that this site is at risk and prevention measures should be put in place; however, expensive and extensive eradication measures are not necessary at this time.