Resistant organisms floating unnoticed in ballast water…

The spread of invasive species in untreated ballast water represents a major threat to marine biodiversity, marine industry and human health. Certain organisms are more resistant to ballast water treatment than others. In particular, some life stages of invertebrates, such as eggs and larvae, are known to be quite resistant. These are unfortunately also the hardest to test for – in fact, there are currently no reliable methods for detecting viability status in these stages apart from observing a natural course of development or a lack of thereof. Since organisms in these stages do not move, it is hard to see if they are dead or alive.

Figure 1. Eggs of selected zooplankton organisms:1: rotifer eggs (attached to the female), 2: copepod eggs, 3: bivalve veliger, 4: shrimp cyst, 5: fishhook waterflea resting egg and 6: waterflea ephippia. Image courtesy of Elena Gorokhova, Stockholm University.

 

Catch the stowaways – dead or alive?

MicroWISE will work to address this challenge in a new project, together with Elena Gorokhova’s research group from Stockholm University’s Department of Environmental Science. In this project, our goal is to expand our BallastWISE ballast water compliance test to evaluate viability status of resilient and dormant stages of invertebrates, such as mussels and copepods.

This challenge requires a new testing technique, which we will develop together with our partners at Stockholm University. The joint project is planned to run until the end of 2023. The first step will be to design and integrate the test method into BallastWISE; the next step will be to design and run various trials using the integrated method.

 

Figure 2. The BallastWISE with the measuring unit for organisms >50 µm (zooplankton) to the left, and the unit for measuring organisms 10-50 µm (protozoa) to the right. 

One test to effectively cover all ballast water compliance testing needs

At MicroWISE, we want to make our ballast water compliance test as effective as possible – so it can help preventing the biological invasions in aquatic systems. With a new method to identify eggs, larvae and various dormant stages of marine invertebrates, we will ensure that the BallastWISE ballast water test is registering all types of potentially harmful organisms.

Using the latest knowledge, we continue to improve BallastWISE. Adding the new testing method is only one of several expansions and improvements we are currently working on. For example, we are also designing an inline BallastWISE solution, which you can read about in our previous news article.