Congratulations to Dr. Yuan Liu on being named a Team Member of the Year by NOAA for her contributions to the NEFSC’s genomic portfolio in 2021!

Dr. Liu is a molecular biologist who supports NOAA’s Milford Laboratory through AIS’s ProTech division. Her nomination for this award stemmed from her accomplishments through mentorship, collaboration, field collections, laboratory innovation, and bioinformatics. Her breadth of accomplishment is stunning and speaks to her hard working and personable nature!

Dr. Liu is the NEFSC’s technical lead for genomics and is a key member of NEFSC’s contribution to NMFS’ strategic initiative on genomics. She serves as a subject matter expert and partners with others in the governmental, private, and academic sectors. Her research results demonstrate that environmental DNA from a water sample as small as 1-liter can identify biotic communities in marine ecosystems. eDNA offers a particular advantage to identify species that are difficult to sample because they are rare, very small, very large, very fast, aggregated, difficult to identify, or inhabit areas not accessible to nets or other traditional sampling devices. eDNA data and information ― from primary consumers to apex predators ― advances our ability to monitor the status, trends, and resilience of fishery, cultured, and protected species residing on the northeast U.S. continental shelf and slope.

Dr. Liu is being recognized not just for her number of notable accomplishments in 2021, but also in recognition of the breadth of those accomplishments. She co-mentored Skylar Gering, a NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholar, whose research was awarded the best student poster at the 151st annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society. She presented two talks about genomics technology, to NOAA’s Genetic Journal Club and NMFS’ Greater Atlantic Regional Office. She was co-author on two white papers, published in international journals, on the topic of applying environmental DNA (eDNA) to aquaculture development ( , ).

She spent 16 days at sea, on a NOAA oceanography cruise to collect eDNA at all 30 stations, a total of 322 water samples ― from Delaware Bay to the Canadian Maritimes, out to the continental slope. Collecting these samples required around the clock readiness and thorough attention to detail. Back on land, she innovated methods to extract eDNA from samples of ocean water and marine mammal feces, the latter to investigate predator-prey relationships between protected and fishery species. Finally, when computer server support was lost due to changes in IT infrastructure, Dr. Liu developed and is now implementing a plan to re-establish a bioinformatics data pipeline to analyze the voluminous genomics data generated by these projects. Dr. Liu’s achievements propelled forward our Science Center’s capacity to apply genomics in a blue economy.

Congrats again to Yuan! We can’t wait to see what else she achieves in the future.