Biosecurity molecular screening using eDNA technology


This project is focusing on how we can quickly and easily detect biosecurity threats through the international ornamental fish trade.

The ornamental fish trade in Australia has an estimated value of about $350 million, with 12 to 14 million fish imported each year.  Of the 37 established alien fish species, 25 are though to have arrived via the ornamental fish trade and species used in this industry are now the main source of new introductions. Alien fish species impact on native fishes through predation, competition, habitat change, disease spread, and potential for hybridisation and introgression. The best approach to prevention of further alien fish introductions is to have a border detection system that can immediately and accurately identify pests and diseases present in shipments.

The ornamental fish trade is an ideal system for multi-species detection technology using eDNA, as the DNA from both the fish present and any potential pathogens are contained within a relatively small amount of water. It is likely that DNA will be very concentrated in these samples as the fish experience stress during transportation. Also, this is a great example of a commodity importation that could harbour a range of unidentifiable risks.




The aims of this project are to:

  • Develop standardised protocols for sample collection and preparation of eDNA;
  • Construct reference databases for potential target species and for various taxonomic levels for identification of novel species.
  • Trial various real-time DNA sequencing platforms, specifically the Oxford Nanopore Minion device
  • Provide a bioinformatic pipeline to support the analysis and interpretation of the results as they occur in ‘real-time’

Project Leader

Prof. Dianne Gleeson
Project Team

Dr Alejandro Trujillo-González, University of Canberra

Project Partners
  • University of Canberra
  • University of Sydney
  • Cawthron Institute



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