Rafael Valentin, a graduate student in both the Lockwood lab and Fonseca lab, has been awarded two graduate student research grants for his novel research utilizing environmental DNA (eDNA) in terrestrial systems. The first was awarded in 2015 for $14,999 from Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, and the second was awarded in February 2017 for $94,976 from the US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Both grants approach separate components that focus on the development of a new surveillance framework aimed at rapidly detecting exotic agricultural pests using novel genetic techniques. The goal of this research is to detect the presence of new and low abundance populations of a specific pest on farms significantly sooner than would be achievable using conventional surveillance and monitoring strategies.
He presented some of the results of his research at the 2017 Ecological Society of America annual meeting in Portland, Oregon. The talk, titled "Utility of eDNA as a surveillance framework in terrestrial systems" was listed in the Genetics and Molecular Techniques session. His contributed talk was one of two awarded the Invasion Ecology Best Presentation award, and comes with a $250 prize and recognition at the Invasion Ecology mixer at the 2018 ESA national meeting.