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Cornell scientists team with Brooklyn students to test NYC waters for invasive species using new ‘eDNA’ tests

Media Contact

Daryl Lovell


Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School students are using a new environmental testing process as part of a growing citywide and statewide citizen-science project called FishTracker. Students will test the Hudson River for invasive and endangered aquatic species during this event. Journalists will also meet the Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine scientists who lead FishTracker, and learn about its critical role in protecting water resources and preventing the spread of invasive fish throughout New York City and the rest of the state.


Tuesday, Oct. 24, noon to 1 p.m.


Hudson River Community Sailing, West 26th Street and 12th Avenue, Pier 66


Journalists are invited to attend this special media-only demonstration and lunch. To attend, please contact Daryl Lovell at (607) 592-3925 or by e-mail at

NEW YORK – Scientists at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine recently developed new genetic tests that can detect the trace amounts of environmental DNA (eDNA) to help spot invasive species in vital waterways before they can become a threat.

These tests are now being used by hundreds of students each year – including more than 10 teams from New York City – as part of the FishTracker program: a student-oriented citizen-science project supported and managed by Cornell University. It is designed to detect and map the presence of both invasive and endangered species in New York.

On Oct. 24, more than a dozen students from Brooklyn’s Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School will join Cornell researchers to collect eDNA samples from the Hudson River. The samples will be tested at Cornell University for traces of eDNA from eight invasive fish species and two endangered native fish species. Journalists will be able to engage with students and researchers during the collection process, and photography and videography is welcome.

Participants include:

  • Dr. Donna Cassidy-Hanley, a senior research associate at the College of Veterinary Medicine, works with teachers across New York state to provide hands-on resources for teaching basic science. Cassidy-Hanley advises teachers who work with students for the eDNA collection, and helps translate the real-world impact of their work.
  • Professor James Casey, associate professor of virology in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the College of Veterinary Medicine, developed the genetic tests.
  • Members of the Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School STEM Club, who have been monitoring the presence of invasive species at city locations this school year. William Schell, the STEM Club advisor and director of Project Lead the Way STEM Curriculum, will also attend.

Journalists will meet the research team and students at Hudson River Community Sailing to see a short presentation about the project before students and Cornell researchers perform tests off the pier. Students will use FishTracker kits to collect water samples, and Cornell scientists will describe the collection and testing process used for analysis. There is no parking at the boat house, but there is street parking in the area and garages at Chelsea Piers and 25th St and 11th Ave.

The eDNA samples provided by New York state teachers and students play a critical role in monitoring the range of invasive and endangered fish species throughout the state. To date, 270 sites have been sampled by students at 73 schools throughout the state – including more than 10 schools in New York City. Students collect samples from nearby lakes, streams or ponds use GPS coordinates to identify each site surveyed. The results from the water samples are posted on the program website, which shows the concentrations and locations of invasive fish species. The findings are also sent back to the teachers and students for classroom analysis and discussion.

Invasive aquatic species such as round goby, Asian carp and snakehead are a growing problem in New York – posing a serious threat to water quality and human health, agriculture, the food supply and even tourism.



About Inside Cornell: This event is part of a series held in New York City featuring high-interest experts working at Cornell University in Ithaca and in New York City. The free, catered lunch sessions are on-the-record, and media members are welcome to record video and audio as desired.