Many freshwater lakes and rivers are being assaulted by invasive species of plankton and other organisms. These invaders are brought into water bodies by ballast water from ships and on the hulls of boats (both commercial and recreational). Introduction of invasive species can cause serious issues to an ecosystem.
Of particular concern are invasive mussels, especially in North America, and their rapid spread to other bodies of water. Because these mussels are so prolific, early detection is critical. Monitoring for larval stage mussels, or mussel veligers, is preferred. Detection of veligers shows the initial presence of the species, when it is possible to take certain steps to slow down their spread.
Unfortunately, the veligers are so small (50-250 µm) that they can only be seen through a microscope. Adding to this problem is the fact that in early stages, the veligers will be present in very sparse amounts, meaning that a large volume of water needs to be analyzed through a microscope in order to spot them early.
Using a FlowCam you can process a significantly larger amount of sample than you can with microscopes. Plus, the FlowCam images and analyzes a moving stream of sample. This means you’ll be able to detect very sparse populations in a very short amount of time.
The FlowCam can also be equipped with a cross-polarized illumination option to help you easily distinguish mussel veligers from other organisms. Because their skeletons are calcareous, they will exhibit birefringence under cross-polarized light.