Cathryn Abbott

Image Abbott, Cathryn
Research Scientist

Regulatory and strategic science, focusing on: (1) the development and application of environmental DNA tools for biomonitoring; and (2) molecular detection of regulated aquatic animal pathogens.

Current research and/or projects

Dr. Abbott has led several projects on developing environmental DNA (eDNA) tools and is keenly interested in enabling their implementation to support decision-making. She is also World Organization for Animal Health Reference Lab Expert (for infection with Mikrocytos mackini) and Technical Manager in an ISO 17025 regulatory molecular diagnostics lab within Canada’s National Aquatic Animal Health Program.

Research and/or project statements

  • Dr. Abbott's lab developed a Novel Applied eDNA Metabarcoding Reference Sequences online portal ( that contains mitogenomes from all freshwater fish in British Columbia; provides complete, easily accessible reference data for defensible eDNA survey design and data analysis
  • Dr. Abbott's lab developed eDNA metabarcoding methods for surveying Canada’s Marine Protected Areas
  • Dr. Abbott's lab validated an eDNA method for qPCR detection of European Green Crab 
  • Dr. Abbott co-authored formal science advice on targeted eDNA analysis to inform management of Aquatic Invasive Species and Species at Risk (
  • Dr. Abbott was a member of the Technical Committee for the Canadian Standards Association for the development of a national standard on Performance Criteria for Environmental DNA/RNA Analyses by Targeted Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (publicly available by end of 2023)

Education and awards

Ph.D. Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics (2005) Australian National University

B.Sc.H, Biology (1997) Queen's University


2022 DFO Assistant Deputy Minister Distinction Award 

2016 Public Service Award of Excellence 

International experience and/or work

Dr. Abbott is World Organization for Animal Health Reference Laboratory Expert for infection with Mikrocytos mackini (a protistan parasite of oysters), is collaborating with US scientists on work related to the development of a National eDNA Strategy for the US, and is a member of the International eDNA Standardization Task Force.


Key publications

Last 10 years, updated Sept 2023

  1. Stein E D, Jerde C L, Allan EA, Sepulveda AJ, Abbott CL, Baerwald MR, Darling J, Goodwin KD, Meyer RS, Timmers MA, Thielen PM (2023) Critical considerations for communicating environmental DNA science. Environmental DNA, 00, 1–12.
  1. Kelly RP, Lodge DM, Lee KN, Theroux S, Sepulveda AJ, Scholin CA, Craine JM, Andruszkiewicz Allan E, Nichols KM, Parsons KM, Goodwin KD, Gold Z, Chavez FP, Noble RT, Abbott CL, Baerwald MR, Naaum AM, Thielen PM, Simons AL… Weisberg SB (2023) Toward a national eDNA strategy for the United States. Environmental DNA, 00, 1–10.
  2. He X, Jeffery NW, Stanley RRE, Hamilton LC, Rubidge EM, Abbott CL (2023) eDNA metabarcoding enriches traditional trawl survey data for monitoring biodiversity in the marine environment. ICES Journal of Marine Science 80:1529-1538
  3. Žárský V, Karnkowska A, Boscaro V, Trznadel M., Whelan TA, Hiltunen-Thoren M, Onut-Brannstrom I, Abbott CL, Fast NM, Burki F, Keeling PJ (2023) Contrasting outcomes of genome reduction in mikrocytids and microsporidians. BMC Biology 21:137.
  4. He X, Stanley RRE, Rubidge EM, Jeffery NW, Hamilton LC, Westfall KM, Gilmore SR, Roux LMD, Gale KSP, Heaslip SG, Steeves R, Abbott CL (2022) Fish community surveys in eelgrass beds using both eDNA metabarcoding and seining: implications for biodiversity monitoring in the coastal zone. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 79:1335-1346.
  5. Westfall KM, Therriault TW, Abbott CL (2022). Targeted next-generation sequencing of environmental DNA improves detection of invasive European green crab (Carcinus maenas). Environmental DNA 4:440-452.
  6. Castelin M, Collin R, Harbo R, Spence E. Aschenbrenner K, Merilees W, Gilmore SR, Abbott C, Eernisse DJ (2022). Size doesn’t matter: integrative taxonomy shows Crepidula adunca and Crepidula norrisiarum have overlapping shell sizes and broadly concordant distributions. The Biological Bulletin 242: 222-237.
  7. Polinski MP, Laurin E, Delphino MKVC, Lowe GJ, Meyer GR, Abbott CL (2021).  Evaluation of histopathology, PCR, and qPCR to detect Mikrocytos mackini in oysters Crassostrea gigas using Bayesian latent class analysis.  Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 144:21-31.
  8. He X, Gilmore SR, Sutherland TF, Hajibabaei M, Miller KM, Westfall KM, Pawlowski J, Abbott CL (2021).  Biotic signals associated with benthic impacts of salmon farms from eDNA metabarcoding of sediments.  Molecular Ecology 30:3158-3174.
  9. Zaiko A, Greenfield P, Abbott C, von Ammon U, Bilewitch J, Bunce M, Cristescu ME, Chariton A, Dowle E, Geller J, Ardura Gutierrez A, Hajibabaei M, Haggard E, Inglis GJ, Lavery SD, Samuiloviene A, Simpson T, Stat M, Stephenson S, … Pochon X (2022). Towards reproducible metabarcoding data: Lessons from an international cross-laboratory experiment. Molecular Ecology Resources 22:519-538.
  10. Rodriguez-Ezpeleta N, Morissette O, Bean CW, Manu S, Banerjee P, Lacoursière-Roussel A, Beng KC, Alter SE, Roger F, Holman LE, Stewart KA, Monaghan MT, Mauvisseau Q, Mirimin L, Wangensteen OS, Antognazza CM, Helyar SJ, de Boer H, Monchamp M-E, Nijland R, Abbott CL, Doi H, Barnes MA, Leray M, Hablützel PI and Deiner K (2021). Trade-offs between reducing complex terminology and producing accurate interpretations from environmental DNA: Comment on “Environmental DNA: What's behind the term?” by Pawlowski et al., (2020). Molecular Ecology 30:4601-4605.
  11. He X, Sutherland TF, Abbott CL (2020).  Improved efficiency in eDNA metabarcoding of benthic metazoans by sieving sediments prior to DNA extraction.  Environmental DNA 00:1–11.
  12. Westfall KM, Therriault TW, Abbott CL (2020).  A new approach to molecular biosurveillance of invasive species using DNA metabarcoding.  Global Change Biology 26:1012–1022.
  13. Roux LMD, Giblot-Ducray D, Bott NJ, Wiltshire KH, Deveney MR, Westfall KM, Abbott CL (2020).  Analytical validation and field testing of a specific qPCR assay for environmental DNA detection of invasive European green crab (Carcinus maenas).  Environmental DNA 2:309–320.
  14. Loeza-Quintana T, Abbott CL, Heath DD, Bernatchez L, Hanner RH (2020).  Pathway to Increase Standards and Competency of eDNA Surveys (PISCeS)—Advancing collaboration and standardization efforts in the field of eDNA.  Environmental DNA 2:255–260.
  15. Darling JA, Pochon X, Abbott CL, Inglis GJ (2020).  The risks of using molecular biodiversity data for incidental detection of species of concern.  Diversity and Distributions 00:1–6.
  16. He X, Sutherland TF, Pawlowski J, Abbott CL (2019).  Responses of foraminifera communities to aquaculture derived organic enrichment as revealed by environmental DNA metabarcoding.  Molecular Ecology 28:1138–1153.
  17. Zhang GK, Chain FJJ, Abbott CL, Cristescu ME (2018).  Metabarcoding using multiplexed markers increases species detection in complex zooplankton communities.  Evolutionary Applications 11:1901–1914.
  18. Polinski M, Meyer G, Lowe G, Abbott CL (2017).  Seawater detection and biological assessments regarding transmission of the oyster parasite Mikrocytos mackini using qPCR.  Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 126:143–153.
  19. Young RG, Abbott CL, Therriault T, Adamowicz SJ (2017).  Barcode-based species delimitation in the marine realm: a test using Hexanauplia (Multicrustacea: Thecostraca and Copepoda). Genome 60: 169-182.
  20. Gurney-Smith HJ, Wade JA, Abbott CL (2017). Species composition and genetic diversity of farmed mussels in British Columbia, Canada. Aquaculture 466:33-40.
  21. Usio N, Azuma N, Larson ER, Abbott CL, Olden JD, Hiromi A, Takamura K, Takamura N (2016). Phylogeographic insights into the invasion history and secondary spread of the signal crayfish in Japan. Ecology and Evolution 6: 5366-5382.
  22. Castelin M, Van Steenkiste N, Pante E, Harbo R, Lowe G, Gilmore SR, Therriault TW, Abbott CL (2016). A new integrative framework for large-scale assessments of biodiversity and community dynamics, using littoral gastropods and crabs of British Columbia, Canada. Molecular Ecology Resources DOI: 10.1111/1755-0998.12534
  23. Larson ER, Castelin M, Williams BW, Olden JD, Abbott CL (2016). Phylogenetic species delimitation for crayfishes of the genus Pacifastacus. PeerJ
  24. Polinski M, Lowe G, Meyer G, Corbeil S, Colling A, Caraguel C, Abbott CL (2015). Molecular detection of Mikrocytos mackini in Pacific oysters using quantitative PCR. Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology 200:19-24.
  25. Van Steenkiste N, Locke SA, Castelin M, Marcogliese DJ, Abbott CL (2015). New primers for DNA barcoding of digeneans and cestodes (Platyhelminthes). Molecular Ecology Resources 15:945-952.
  26. Smith KF, Abbott CL, Saito Y, Fidler AE (2015). Comparison of whole mitochondrial genome sequences from two clades of the invasive ascidian, Didemnum vexillum. Marine Genomics 19:75-83.
  27. King SD, Cone DK, Gilmore SR, Jones SRM, Abbott CL (2014). Supplemental description and phylogenetic placement of Gyrodactylus corti (Monogenea: Gyrodactylidae) parasitizing captive wolf-eel Anarrhichthys ocellatus in British Columbia. Comparative Parasitology 81:225-231.
  28. Zhan A, He S, Brown EA, Chain FJJ, Therriault TW, Abbott CL, Heath DD, Cristescu ME, MacIsaac HJ (2014). Reproducibility of pyrosequencing data for biodiversity assessment in complex communities. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 5:881-890.
  29. Abbott CL, Meyer GR, Lowe G, Kim E, Johnson SC (2014).  Molecular taxonomy of Mikrocytos boweri n. sp. from Olympia oysters Ostrea lurida in British Columbia, Canada. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 110:65-70.
  30. Smith DS, Rocheleau H, Chapados JT, Abbott CL, Ribero S, Redhead SA, Levesque CA, De Boer SH (2014).  Phylogeny of the genus Synchytrium and the development of a TaqMan qPCR assay for sensitive detection of Synchytrium endobioticum sporangia in soil. Phytopathology 104:422-432.
  31. Abbott CL, Millikin RL, Hipfner M, Hatch S, Ito JM, Watanuki Y, Burg TM (2014). Genetic structure of Rhinoceros auklets, Cerorhinca monocerata, breeding in British Columbia, Alaska, and Japan.  Marine Biology 161:275-283.
  32. Burki F, Corradi N, Sierra R, Pawlowski J, Meyer GR, Abbott CL, Keeling PJ (2013).  Phylogenomics of the intracellular parasite Mikrocytos mackini reveals evidence for a mitosome in Rhizaria. Current Biology 23:1541-1547.
  33. Zhan A, Hulák M, Sylvester F, Huang X, Adebayo AA, Abbott CL, Adamowicz SJ, Heath DD, Cristescu ME, MacIsaac HF (2013).  High sensitivity of 454 pyrosequencing for detection of rare species in aquatic communities.Methods in Ecology and Evolution 4:558-565.
  34. Itoh N, Meyer GR, Tabata A, Lowe G, Abbott CL, Johnson SC (2013).  Rediscovery of the Yesso scallop pathogen Perkinsus qugwadi in Canada, and development of PCR tests. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 104:83-91.
  35. Cone DK, Appy R, Baggett L, King S, Gilmore SR, Abbott CL (2013).  A new gyrodactylid (Monogenea) parasitizing Bay Pipefish (Syngnathus leptorhynchus) from the Pacific coast of North America. Journal of Parasitology 99:183-188.