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Our Scientists – From Coast to Coast to Coast – Davon Callander

Find out about how we are trying to detect aquatic invasive species.


My name is Davon Callander. I am a post-doctoral fellow at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo with DFO.

I am working on invasive species detection in fresh water lakes in B.C. specifically looking at invasive fish.

I'm developing environmental DNA or EDNA technology to detect invasive species early on in the invasion process.

With Environmental DNA what we do is we collect a water sample that has fragments of DNA floating in it which is naturally occurring genetic material in the environment.

We collect the water, filter the water, extract the DNA off the filter and then sequence the DNA, compare that to a reference library which allows us to identify the species identity of organisms living in the water where we were sampling.

The benefits of using environmental DNA over traditional sampling is that it is highly sensitive, it's less invasive and it's rapid for detecting the invasive species.

The sensitivity allows us to detect the invader at a much lower population density than with traditional methods.

When we can have early detection of invasive species that allows management decisions to be made earlier in the process of invasion and we have a much greater likelihood of success of eradicating the species or limiting the harmful effects on the ecological environment in which the invasion is occurring.

Well the coolest part of my job is, I feel in a way that I'm working the sci-fi world, that I'm collecting a water sample and then I can identify the species of animal living

in that water from microscopic pieces of DNA that... you pick up - you scoop water out of a lake, you can't see anything in there but I can tell you which species are living in that lake from that water.

I feel like I'm on a spaceship doing some kind of like futuristic research, it's just so neat to be able, to be part of the cutting edge of environmental science.

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