When Australian biosecurity officers find a suspicious insect or other invasive pest, they can now quickly identify it, drawing upon experts around the world using microscopes linked via the internet.
The Remote Microscope Network (RMN), developed by the Cooperative Research Centre for National Plant Biosecurity (CRCNPB), allows the officers to examine an insect or specimen closely in real time, manipulating it under the microscope while discussing its identification with national and international experts.
The system is coupled to a comprehensive diagnostic information database, allowing comparison with images and information about the suspect.
Until now identification in the field of invasive insects and other pests has been a slow and cumbersome process. It often involved sending a sample to a capital city and waiting several weeks for results.
The RMN is used in conjunction with a Pest and Disease Image Library and a Plant Biosecurity Toolbox, which includes high quality images as well as information about pest distribution. Together they enable field officers to identify pests quickly and accurately, and respond to any threats. This could save millions of dollars in eradication costs and lost market access for Australian producers.
“We’ve added a new, innovative tool to our system which is very cost effective and efficient, and decreases the response time when dealing with potentially harmful pests and diseases,” says Dr Simon McKirdy, CEO of the CRCNPB. “Now relevant diagnostic information is available to field officers around Australia and to our near neighbours.”