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Researchers in Hawaii undertake invasive species monitoring

HONOLULU (AP) — A state department has begun collecting special plates kept in several Hawaii harbors as part of an effort aimed at detecting potential invasive species.

Researchers from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources in recent weeks have begun collecting the plates, which the department said are anchored with cinder blocks in commercial harbors around the state.

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The department said the plates soak in the water and different types of organisms settle on them.

Researchers then look at those organisms as part of the effort to detect possible invasive species that may have been carried in on boats.

The department said part of the work involves getting an understanding for any invasive species in the harbors and identifying perhaps newly introduced invasive species. Another piece is to create a reference library of DNA that researchers said could speed efforts to detect foreign species.

Plates have been put in place in harbors on Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii Island.

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The department has set a goal of retrieving the plates by the end of 2022. But Natalie Dunn, an aquatic biologist with the department’s Division of Aquatic Resources, said some flexibility is needed.

“It’s field work,” Dunn said in a statement, “and we hope everything goes as planned, but everything is totally dependent on ocean conditions. While the drop zones were plotted with GPS, the ocean doesn’t always cooperate.”

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