Advanced Tools for Biosecurity and Installation Infrastructure Resiliency
The Resource Conservation and Resiliency program area advances research and technologies that support understanding, controlling, and counteracting risks associated with military capabilities, lands, and installations.
In 2021, SERDP is funding projects that address the two Department of Defense (DoD) environmental challenges, (1) threats to strategic movement resulting from invasive, alien terrestrial species (IATS) and (2) infrastructure system function in the face of climate and weather extremes.
Military personnel currently possess limited tools to control the spread of invasive species. Cargo, equipment, and vehicles undergo soldier (marine, sailor, or airmen) intensive cleaning and
surveillance procedures to mitigate the transport of IATS. However, these efforts are resource intensive, time consuming, and not always completely effective. Invasive organisms that manage to be transported impact ecosystems, agriculture, and both plant and animal health in the unintended new locations. The following projects seek to improve biosecurity and control IATS on military vehicles and cargo during deployment and redeployment activities.
- RNA interference (RNAi) is a promising control measure for invasive ants but, to date, it has failed to fulfill that promise. Dr. Neil Tsutsui at the University of California, Berkeley and his team plan to change that dynamic by performing a series of targeted experiments to understand why RNAi efforts are failing ( Project Overview). Species that the project focuses on are present at Pacific and mainland DoD installations and pose biosecurity risks globally.
- On the Pacific Islands, the Coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB) inflict economic and ecological damage. Dr. Julia Lockwood at Rutgers University is leading her project team to adapt an existing environmental DNA (eDNA) survey protocol for rapid and cost-effective surveillance and mitigation of CRB ( Project Overview). The eDNA constantly shed by living organisms can be linked to a certain species using standard molecular techniques from water, sediment, or soil samples. Dr. Lockwood’s work seeks to improve the detection of CRB and provide critical information regarding their presence.
- Dr. George Roderick at the University of California, Berkeley will also use eDNA and DNA sequencing technologies to improve detection and monitoring of arthropod IATS ( Project Overview). His team will accelerate the creation of a biosecurity monitoring system that uses standardized field sampling and next generation DNA “barcoding” of size-sorted bulk samples. The approach will be applied to three Pacific islands associated with DoD training lands and installations in different seasons over the course of a few years. This is the first Pacific-wide effort using next generation sequence data to study the presence of IATS.
Infrastructure System Function
DoD considers understanding climate risks to facilities and their supporting infrastructure systems (e.g., energy, transportation, water resources) a key environmental challenge. To design resilient buildings that can adapt to changing climate conditions over time, engineers, architects, and planners require tools to access vulnerability and improve planning related to DoD infrastructure resilience. Toward that end, Dr. David Alderson at the Naval Postgraduate School proposes to develop a technology platform for vulnerability analysis, simulation, and wargaming that assesses and improves an installation’s adaptability to environmental surprise ( Project Overview). Dr. Alderson and his team will organize their research effort into three integrated thrusts. First, they plan to focus on developing theory and frameworks for measuring resilience, then apply these frameworks to inform tool improvement to simulate surprise. Finally, they seek to develop an experiential learning platform.
These new efforts begin this year and will continue to advance tools and procedures for biosecurity measures and installation infrastructure resiliency into the future.