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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

New Zealand Mudsnail eDNA marker validation and trout stream monitoring

Principal Investigators: Chris Merkes

Impact of UMESC Science

The results of this study will inform Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa Departments of Natural Resources about the spread of New Zealand Mudsnails in popular trout streams in those states. Each state can then inform anglers about the invasion so appropriate measures may be taken to prevent the spread of this invasive species.


Environmental DNA (eDNA) has been developed as an early detection and surveillance tool for New Zealand mudsnails (Potamopyrgus antipodarum) (NZMS) in response to the growing invasion in the Great Lakes and western states. In October 2013, NZMS were identified in benthic macroinvertebrate samples collected from Black Earth Creek, Dane County, Wisconsin in 2011 and 2012. This was the first known discovery of NZMS in the Midwest outside of the Great Lakes basin and represents a significant threat to the state and regional water resources. Following the discovery, additional benthic and eDNA samples were collected from Black Earth Creek. Preliminary results indicated that eDNA provided better evidence that NZMS were present in low densities than traditional benthic sampling.  Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources would like to use eDNA to determine NZMS distribution in their respective states.

In addition to a genetic marker developed by Caren Goldberg et al. targeting the cytochrome b gene (cytb), the Molecular Conservation Genetics Laboratory (MCGL) at University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point (UWSP) developed another marker for NZMS detection targeting the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I gene (coi).  New markers that have been rigorously tested or published by other labs must be further validated prior to being adopted in any monitoring program. This further validation should be completed in multiple labs to demonstrate that the new markers are robust and produce repeatable results with different personnel and across different platforms. This study will validate new markers for use in eDNA monitoring of NZMS then employ the validated markers in a monitoring program for NZMS in popular trout streams within the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins.


  • Determine if different qPCR assays perform similarly between UMESC and MCGL in ability to detect and quantify NZMS DNA in environmental samples.
  • Determine if newly developed qPCR assays perform as well or better than the published NZMS-cytb assay in detecting NZMS DNA in environmental samples.
  • Monitor popular trout streams for early detection of NZMS invasion and inform state DNR agencies.



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