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Biological Invasions and Environmental Genetics Research Group

Research areas:

Ecology of biological invasions

Biological invasions offer a unique opportunity to study fundamental processes in population, community, ecosystem and evolution across many taxonomic groups. For example, Biogeography examines the origin of non-indigenous species (NIS), the processes of their transfer and resettlement in new areas, the formation of a new biota composition. Ecophysiology studies physiological adaptations of invaders in new habitats. Population biology investigates outbreaks and subsequent decreases in abundance. Functional ecology researches the role of invaders in ecosystem trophodynamics and habitat modification. In general, the study of biological invasions allows for a better understanding of the processes occurring at different levels of biological organization and, thus, enriches the theoretical ecology.

Applied aspects of biological invasion research

Biological invasions may cause undesirable changes in the aquatic environment, negative impact on economic activity, social-cultural values, and even human health. What is why Invasion Biology is involved in applied research and management advice, such as development of NIS indicators (e.g. for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive), methods to assess the magnitude bioinvasion impacts, risk assessments, ships’ ballast water and biofouling management, early detection of potentially harmful NIS, cost-benefit analysis of bioinvasion control, etc.

Environmental genetics

Molecular genetic methods help to bridge the gaps of knowledge concerning aquatic bioinvasions, like the origin and source of newly arrived organisms, identification and discrimination of species, recognition of either direct or stepping stone progression, and the introduction pathways involved. DNA barcoding and metabarcoding, quantitative PCR, Next Generation Sequencing Technologies and microsatellite approaches are being used for early detection of NIS, especially at early life-history stages (due to difficulties in their identifications), the genetic make-up of founding populations, identification of ballast water organisms, epigenetic signatures of invasive status in populations of marine organisms.

Major topics:

  • Information system on aquatic non-indigenous and cryptogenic species (AquaNIS)
    Further development of AquaNIS, a new generation database that stores and disseminates information on NIS introduction histories, recipient regions, taxonomy, biological traits, impacts, and other relevant documented data in marine, brackish and coastal freshwater of Europe and neighboring regions, as well as Arctic Ocean, East Asia and New Zealand.
  • Marine Strategy Framework Directive
    Developing of NIS indicators; involvement of invasive species in overall marine environmental status assessments. Impact of NIS on other Good Environmental Status descriptors (e.g. D1). Regional NIS monitoring system.
  • Implementation of the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC)
    Port biological surveys. Early warning system on harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens. Ballast water sampling.
  • Socio-economy of biological invasions
    Development of balanced view on negative, as well as, positive impacts of NIS on ecosystem services.


Dr. Sergej Olenin
Head, biogeography, indicators and impact assessment, ballast water management, marine policy – science interaction

Dr. Dan Minchin
rapid assessment surveys of NIS, biofouling, ballast water management, marine policy – science interaction

Dr. Anastasija Zaiko
molecular methods, ecophysiology, functional ecology, impact assessment, biosecurity approach

Dr. Aurelija Samuilovienė
molecular methods, hybridization, ballast water surveillance

Dr. Aleksas Narščius
ecoinformatics, AquaNIS data management

Dr. Rokas Butkus
molecular methods, population biology, role of invasive species in aquatic ecosystems

Dr. Greta Srėbalienė
impact assessment, NIS indicators

Dr. Irina Olenina
Phtytoplankton ecology, invasive phytoplankton species, bioinvasion impact assessment