Mansfield Fisheries Student Publishes Senior Research Project

Josh Grassi ’18

Recent Mansfield graduate, Josh Grassi ‘18, has published findings of his senior research project in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental DNA, along with co-authors Dr. Gregory Moyer, associate professor of biology at Mansfield; Chris Rees and  Dr. Meredith Bartron, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Dr. Heather Galbraith, U.S. Geological Survey.

Grassi developed a molecular technique to detect the American Eel under water. This technique termed “environmental DNA,” or simply eDNA, can detect the presence of an organism, site unseen, simply by taking a water sample.

“Josh’s work was instrumental in understanding whether this technology could be used for practical field applications,” Moyer said.

Typically, eels are detected using nets or through electrofishing, a process that uses direct currents of electricity under the water to affect the movement of fish to swim toward a particular spot. Both methods can be invasive or harmful to the eels; eDNA allows for a much safer method of detection.

Grassi, who is employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection as an aquatic biologist, said, “Having the opportunity to conduct meaningful research while at Mansfield has opened many doors on a personal and professional level. Through this project, I was able to learn valuable lessons in following the scientific process, collaborating within a work group, and presenting findings in a formal setting. These lessons were invaluable in preparing me for the start of my career. I am beyond grateful for what this research project has done for me and encourage anyone sharing similar goals to learn more about the possibilities at Mansfield.”

“The collaboration between faculty and students on research projects is an important part of the educational experience at our now combined university,” said Commonwealth president Dr. Bashar W. Hanna. “It is exciting to see the work of Josh, Dr. Moyer, and the other collaborators be published in a peer-reviewed publication. Congratulations to them all.”

Grassi is the second student of Moyer’s to have his senior research project published. The article of Grassi’s research article can be found at