ESAI Postgraduate Researcher of the Year 2019 Announced

Congratulations to Molly-Ann Williams from the School of Biotechnology in Dublin City University (DCU) who has been awarded the ESAI Postgraduate Researcher of the Year 2019 by the Environmental Sciences Association of Ireland. Presentation of this prestigious annual award & prize monies of €500 will take place at the official opening ceremony of Environ 2020: 30th Irish Environmental Researchers Colloquium being hosted by ESAI and DCU on 28th April 2020 in DCU. Molly-Ann is working on her PhD thesis entitled “Development of a Novel Biosensor for the Detection of Specific Species using Environmental DNA". Molly-Ann is a student of Prof Fiona Regan and Dr Anne Parle-McDermott in DCU. Speaking about her research Molly-Ann Williams said:

"The urgency of biodiversity monitoring is at an all-time high due to the increasing threat of climate change to global ecosystems. Molecular methods, such as the detection of environmental DNA (eDNA) shed and excreted by organisms into their environment, offer new opportunities to monitor biodiversity and track endangered or invasive species. However, current methodologies utilising PCR technology are time consuming and limited to laboratory based settings, reducing their applicability in the field. My research project tackles eDNA detection from a different perspective, using an isothermal approach to DNA amplification instead of the conventional PCR. I have developed a novel, alternative method of eDNA detection by combining isothermal amplification of DNA with CRISPR-Cas detection. The developed methodology has been shown to enable single species detection of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) from the Burrishoole Catchment, Co. Mayo (Williams et al., 2019) . Not only does employing CRISPR-Cas, more commonly known for its role in genome editing, dramatically simplify the next challenge of building a biosensor device, it enhances the differential detection of sympatric taxa and can be easily adapted to detect any species from eDNA samples from a variety of sources. This is the first application of CRISPR-Cas technology to eDNA detection."  

ESAI would like to wish Molly-Ann all the best with her research and future endeavours.


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