Young scientist completes study into the conservation of white-clawed crayfish with the Marine Institute

Juliette Ó Súilleabháin conducting eDNA laboratory work for her project in the Marine Institute in Oranmore, Co. Galway. Young student scientist, Juliette Ó Súilleabháin, recently completed a project studying the conservation of white-clawed crayfish with the support of the Marine Institute. Juliette, a 2nd year student in St Mary's Secondary School Mallow, when planning her project, approached the Institute’s Marine Environment and Food Safety Services team about her individual project: Assessing the Presence of White-Clawed Crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) in the Blackwater catchment area of Mallow using Environmental DNA Analysis and the identification of possible Ark Sites.

Juliette accompanied staff on fieldwork so she could learn non-invasive sampling techniques for this protected species. Subsequently, she visited the labs and learned how to extract DNA and run PCRs. Her project has since qualified for the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in the Biological & Ecological category and is listed here.

Juliette explained how her project came about: “I wanted to do a young scientist project on an ecological topic and contacted some ecologists for guidance. My original project involved the investigation of the presence and distribution of white-clawed crayfish (WCC) on the stretch of the Blackwater River where I live. A very recent crayfish plague outbreak in the Blackwater Catchment decimated the catchment's crayfish population and put an end to my project.

After further consultation, I chose the identification of potential WCC conservation ark sites as an alternative project topic. From my research, I learned about environmental DNA (eDNA) and the National Surveillance Programme for Crayfish Plague. I thought eDNA would be a useful tool in screening ark sites, so I contacted Bogna Griffin of the Marine Institute, and she kindly allowed me to accompany her on an eDNA sampling field trip to the Blackwater Catchment, and subsequently invited me to conduct eDNA laboratory work for my project in the Marine Institute in Oranmore, County Galway.

A massive thank you to Bogna and the Marine Institute for giving me such a wonderful experience of a fascinating science topic!”

Supervising scientist, Bogna Griffin, said “I was very impressed with her attitude, the level of her write-up, and the depth of her knowledge in ecology and molecular biology. We are all very proud of her in the Fish Health Unit and wish her and all students the best of luck in January at the exhibition.”

Staff from the Marine Institute will be on hand as part of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Labs exhibit at the 2024 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, in Dublin, 11-13 January.