Post Doc

A DNA barcode reference library of Ponto-Caspian amphipods: towards improved invasion management and biodiversity conservation

Projects leader: dr. Asta Audzijonytė

Postdoc researcher: dr. Denis Copilaş-Ciocianu

Postdoc duration: 2020-08-05 – 2022-08-04

The rise of next-generation sequencing and DNA metabarcoding has revolutionized aquatic biodiversity research. Next-generation monitoring is cost-efficient and offers unparalleled accuracy and objectivity in species identification, proving to be an effective tool for biodiversity conservation as well as management of biological invasions. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of metabarcoding relies on species DNA barcode reference databases, which are often incomplete, even in well-studied areas. In this project, we aim to investigate the Ponto-Caspian assemblage of amphipod crustaceans, producing the first DNA barcode database of this group and providing an updated overview of their diversity. This diverse evolutionary radiation contains one of the most successful aquatic invaders currently spreading throughout Europe and North America, negatively impacting local biodiversity. What is more, most Ponto-Caspian amphipods are actually poorly known enigmatic species restricted to the Black and Caspian seas and surrounding areas, which are under high anthropogenic impact. Despite these pressing issues, these amphipods have been little studied from a molecular perspective, thus their taxonomy is plagued by ambiguous species descriptions and questionable higher classification, and some of the invasive species have even been constantly misidentified for decades. Thus, an accurate and taxa rich DNA barcode database would significantly improve species identifications via metabarcoding, leading towards efficient monitoring of invasive Ponto-Caspian amphipod species, and improved conservation measures for the numerous endemics. An overview of the taxonomic, ecological and morphological diversity would aid in formalizing the systematics of this group and potentially reveal important evolutionary patterns. As such, the results of this project will provide a foundation for future ecological, evolutionary and systematic studies, and will also have applied value in the management of biological invasions and conservation of native biodiversity.

This project has received funding from European Social Fund (project No 09.3.3-LMT-K-712-19-0149) under grant agreement with the Research Council of Lithuania (LMTLT).

Scientific team projects

Assessment of toxicity of different stressor types to aquatic organisms

Projects leader: dr. Laura Butrimavičienė

Terms of the project: 2017–2020

The project focuses on assessment of toxicity of different stressor types (chemical and physical) to different aquatic organisms in different stages of development. The aim of the project is to assess under laboratory conditions the toxicological significance of biological effects caused by chemical and physical stressors of different composition and origin in aquatic organisms as well as their recovery after removal of stressors. The following phenomena will be considered during implementation of the project: a) chemical stressors detected in real concentrations in the environment cause toxicologically significant effects; b) the effect of a physical stressor of anthropogenic origin on organisms in the environment and subsequent biological effects; and c) recovery of organisms after removal of stressors.

Experimental investigations will involve several species of freshwater and marine organisms (fishes, molluscs) in different stages of their development. The toxicity of stressors will be given systematic assessment, i.e. the effects caused will be assessed from subcell to organism level. A wide spectrum of biomarkers will be applied, namely cytogenetic, biochemical, cytological and physiological biomarkers. As an indicator of environmental stress, an integrated response of biomarkers will be calculated. Such response is important and helpful in assessing ecological risks and can be applied in environmental protection management.


Biochemic and proteomic investigations of Daphnia seasonal phenotypes and their appliance for pollution indication

Projects leader: dr. Kęstutis Arbačiauskas

Terms of the project: 2010–2011

National scientific research programs

Implication of species and functional diversity for aquatic ecosystem services under increasing eutrophication and chemical pollution

Projects leader: dr. Kęstutis Arbačiauskas

Terms of the project: 2015–2018

Impact of alien crustacean invasions on food web structure in lakes

Projects leader: dr. Kęstutis Arbačiauskas

Terms of the project: 2010–2011

Adaptation of invasive species and their impact on aquatic ecosystems of different complexity

Projects leader: dr. Kęstutis Arbačiauskas

Terms of the project: 2012–2014


Research into functions, responses and adaptations of biological systems and application prospects

Projects leader: dr. Kęstutis Arbačiauskas

Complex research into biological processes, taking place at different life organisation levels, ranging from cell to ecosystem, using and combining innovative and traditional research methods and technologies to generate fundamental knowledge about functions, responses and adaptations of biological systems to natural and anthropogenic disturbances for enhancing the understanding of biological processes, evolution and factors ensuring their sustainability.

- Prediction of prospects for the new fundamental knowledge application, development of methodologies for the assessment of functions and responses of biological systems and preparation of recommendations for the preservation of biological systems sustainability.

Orders by economic entities

Eksperto paslaugos atstovavimui ES ežerų ekologinės būklės vertinimo pagal dugno bestuburius metodo interkalibracijos procese (Interkalibracija). 2011 m.

Projects leader: dr. Kęstutis Arbačiauskas

Užsakovas: Lietuvos Aplinkos apsaugos Agentūra

Scientific cooperation

Jungtinės veiklos sutartis tarp Gamtos tyrimų centro, Klaipėdos universiteto ir Vilniaus universiteto

Projects leader: dr. Kęstutis Arbačiauskas

Partneriai apjungdami ir kooperuodami savo patirtį profesines žinias, įgųdžius ir dalykinę reputaciją susitaria bendradarbiauti bendrai rengiant ir įgyvendinant projektą.

Sutartis pasirašyta: 2011.12.12

Funding of researchers

Funding of research visits (Išvykos-4), 2011 m.

Projects leader: dr. Giedrė Višinskienė