Clarkson University Assistant Professor of Mathematics Rana Parshad has received a three-year grant totaling approximately $420,000 from the National Science Foundation for his research on mathematical modeling for controlling invasive aquatic species. The award is from the NSF’s Division of Mathematical Sciences, Mathematical Biology Program.
The project, “Collaborative Research: A Novel Control for Invasive Species – Modeling, Analysis, and Experiments,” will explore the Trojan Y-Chromosome (TYC) strategy, which hypothesizes that the introduction of a genetically-modified sub-population into an invasive population will eradicate the target invasive species over time, while protecting native species.
When an invasive species is introduced into a new habitat, it can cause large scale damage by preying on native species or competing for the same resources.
“The spread of invasive species is a major problem in spatial ecology, and there is a large body of literature on understanding this spread. However, there is far less work on the actual eradication and control of invasive species once invasion has occurred,” says Parshad.
The TYC strategy is a biological control that introduces a sub-population of genetically modified males with YY chromosomes (as opposed to the normal XY chromosomes) in order to guarantee future offspring will be male. In theory, over time the population will be male skewed, driving down the female population and ultimately leading to the extinction of the invasive species in that particular area.
Parshad and his co-PI, Associate Professor Matthew Beauregard at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, are developing an experimentally tested mathematical model of the TYC strategy. The computational and theoretical analysis of the model will inform experimental biologists about the viability of the TYC strategy and other phenomena associated with such controlled effects.
For example, cannibalism within the species. “In many cases, the genetically modified males are typically smaller than a normal male, and in populations where cannibalism occurs, size wins,” explains Parshad. “If the XY males are cannibalizing the genetically modified YY males, the viability of the TYC strategy, can be questioned.”
“There are also several theoretical challenges”, says Parshad. “Once we include directed movements into the picture, that is say movements towards prey or mates, global existence of solutions is only known under certain parametric restrictions”.
Results of the project will guide experimental research at the USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center in Gainsville, Fla., to combat aquatic invasive species and rejuvenate damaged ecosystems.
Parshad has been a faculty member at Clarkson since 2013 and has been the author of numerous scholarly papers that his new research project builds upon, involving mathematical modeling for population ecology issues such as predator-prey relationships, tri-trophic food chains, cannibalism, invasive species spread and control, and the TYC model.