After many months of planning and set-up, room renovations and equipment tweaks, we are very pleased to announce that our new SEFS Shared Genetics Laboratory is fully open and operational in Bloedel 170!
Funded by Professor Laura Prugh, SEFS and a Student Technology Fee grant that alumna Melissa Pingree secured, the newly refurbished lab is designed to focus on non-invasive, low-quality/low-quantity DNA genetic testing from hair, scat, saliva, water, soil and other collected material that doesn’t require the capture of an animal (though the lab is also capable of handling blood and tissue sampling). It’s equipped with highly specialized technologies, including a droplet digital PCR machine to detect very low levels of DNA, and is open to SEFS graduate and undergraduate students in need of space and equipment for their genetic research, whether they’re exploring bacterial communities in soil, or identifying species through hair samples. While using the equipment is free—dependent on availability—students do have to provide their own supplies.
Several graduate students are already using the lab, including a project that involves swabbing bite marks on killed ungulates to determine predator identification. There’s also a new citizen science project on Vashon Island through the Vashon Nature Center that involves a pilot coyote study to try to isolate quality DNA from scat samples to determine individual identification.
The possibilities range widely, and the best way to see how the lab might support your own research is to contact the lab manager, Kelly Williams. Originally from Upstate New York, Kelly earned a master’s in ecology from Colorado State University, and her graduate research involved developing a method of detecting feral pig DNA in water samples (she just had her paper accepted in PLOS ONE!). In addition to assisting graduate student projects, she is currently training and working with three undergraduate student volunteers this summer to help extract DNA scat samples from Alaska as part of one of Laura’s grants.