Due to the recent exotic Caulerpa incursions along the coast of Northland, Northland Regional Council engaged scientists from the Marine Biosecurity Toolbox research programme to assist them with prioritizing locations for surveillance and readiness activities. The Manage&Respond team applied their prototype maritime pathway network model to predict critical risk locations.
Sensitive molecular detection techniques gain great interest and are being increasingly tested for detecting the notorious fanworm in high-risk marine sites (i.e., ports and marinas) around New Zealand. However, conventional molecular detection assays require specific laboratory resources and technical expertise. This restricts the wider applicability of this approach by biosecurity practitioners or communities willing to be engaged in biosecurity surveillance. To provide end-users with a fast, easy and highly specific way to detect Sabella spallanzanii directly at the site of interest, a species-specific recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA) assay was designed to be read-out with lateral flow strips (RPA-LF). The RPA generates amplification within 20 minutes at 37-39°C, with a detection limit of 10 pg of the target DNA, matching the detection limit of digital droplet PCR (ddPCR) when performed on eDNA samples.
A simplified visual protocol for non-scientist users of the assay was developed and improved through independent trials with different end-user groups. The assay applicability was verified in a final validation trial with participants without scientific background resulting in 50 percent of the participants successfully detecting S. spallanzanii. Participants rated the ease of use and performance and read-out mostly as easy-to-very easy with overall positive written feedback on its usability for citizen science applications.
The detailed information on the assay development, validation and trials with the non-scientist users has been published in Frontiers in Marine Science journal.