Preserving Aquatic Biodiversity

clown fish swimming around an anemoneProfessor Meiyin Wu is working to keep exotic species out of the world's fresh and salt waters. Through her Great Lakes Restoration Initiative project, she is developing an innovative ultrasound technology that would eliminate microscopic organisms—as well as egg and larval stages of macro-organisms—from ship ballast water. Her work is being funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior with a $673,500 grant.

‌"Ships traveling around the world carry thousands of gallons of ballast water to maintain stability during their voyages," Wu explains. "Sea water and marine creatures can be ballasted from a coastal port and be transported to the next destination of call, where the water may be de-ballasted along with the organisms it carries."

Wu says species introduction is a leading cause of biodiversity loss. "Around the globe, exotic species are replacing native species and altering the ecosystems they invade."

For the past eight years Wu, along with Junru Wu of the University of Vermont, has been working on BallastSolution, an innovative, environmentally sound device that combines filtration and ultrasonic technologies. (The scientists hold a U.S. patent on the technology, and are awaiting another on the design.) Also on the research team are postdoctoral researcher Di Chen, and three students from Montclair State.

"BallastSolution can be the solution for millions of ship owners," she says. "When directly encountered by aquatic organisms, ultrasound can form cavitation bubbles that damage or kill targeted organisms. BallastSolution is an environmentally sound technology. The sound energy dissipates naturally as it travels through the water without causing secondary environmental impacts."