RESEARCH INTERESTS & FEATURED PROJECT
Biological control: Discovery and evaluation of "novel" parasites from Eurasian dreissenids to drastically reduce our "naive" North American populations of zebra and quagga mussels (see Featured Project below).
Biology, ecology, and control of aquatic invasive species, with special focus on dreissenid (zebra and quagga) mussels.
Infectious diseases of aquatic invertebrates.
Use of Novel Eurasian Parasites to Control Naive North American Dreissenid Populations
Research being funded by the United States Bureau of Reclamation
Infectious disease caused by hypervirulent parasites can have long-term, devastating impacts on animal populations. This is especially true when "naive" animal populations are exposed to "novel" parasites that they have been geographically separated from for millions of years. Such naive host populations can be ravaged by the virulence of these novel parasites since they have not co-evolved with them and thus have little to no resistance to infection.
In this project, populations of North American quagga and zebra mussels (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis and D. polymorpha) are being evaluated in the laboratory for their "naïveté" to closely related parasites that normally infect only "cousin" Dreissena spp. -- dreissenid species whose evolution diverged from zebra and quagga mussels millions of years ago. Such isolated "cousin" dreissenid species are present in the Balkans and Asia Minor (e.g., D. caputlacus, D. anatolica, D. blanci, and D. carinata). Since North American populations of zebra and quagga mussels have not encountered the parasites of their European/Asian cousins before, infection may prove lethal.
Both laboratory and fieldwork to document parasites is now being conducted in Turkey, Albania, Montenegro, and Macedonia, and several new parasite species are currently under study.