Determining Provenance of Insects with Isotope Analysis for Biosecurity Purposes: Real World Forensic Applications

Jul 12, 2018

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Based on the same principles used to investigate cosmic processes and provenance of items of forensic and commercial value, stable isotope and trace element biogeochemical signatures show promise as markers of an insect’s natal origin.

In the context of national biosecurity, point of origin discrimination of pests detected in surveillance and border security programs can be of significant economic and social value; as provenance information can identify risk pathways; as well as distinguish whether samples from surveillance traps are non-established new arrivals or if they represent an established population.  This information can direct appropriate operational responses in exotic pest eradication campaigns, as well as support maintaining “area pest free” status and thereby preserving export trade access for produce from a given region.

In this webcast we will briefly review the comparatively new field of tracking insect movement using natural abundance biogeochemical markers.  Recent advances will be discussed, including a much improved understanding of fundamental principles, focusing on research which has used high-impact internationally distributed pests and real-world pest incursion case-studies.  These works have shown strong potential for entomological provenance resolution through the multivariate examination of both climatically and geologically linked spatial markers, namely δ2H, δ18O, 87Sr/86Sr, 207Pb/206Pb and 208Pb/206Pb isotope ratios.  The provenance value of trace element concentration signatures will also be discussed. 

From this body of work, the potential and constraints of this technology are revealed, and future technological developments identified.


Key Learning Objectives:

  • The potential for using biogeochemical markers in entomology – as well as the constraints
  • Natural abundance biogeochemical markers are available in all biological samples – allowing us to harness the power of the isotope!
  • BUT!  There is fractionation and loads of variation, and still quite a lot to figure out



Dr. Peter W Holder, Postdoctoral Fellow, Biogeochemistry, Bio-Protection Research Centre, Lincoln University New Zealand


Date and Time:

Live: Thursday, 12 July, 2018 at 11 am EDT | 8 am PDT | 1600 BST | 1700 CEST

After the final airing of the webcast on 12 July, 2018 it will be available on demand until 12 July, 2019. 

Sponsor: Thermo Fisher Scientific

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