DNA Applications for Forensics and Field Research

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Forensic science involves the application of scientifically-analyzed evidence to the public discussion/debate of legal issues. The evidence can be based in medicine, chemistry, pathology, and most recently - since the 1990s - DNA analysis.

The application of DNA evidence has increased due to:

  • Advancements in the ability of scientists to extract and replicate small amounts of DNA from crime scene samples.

  • Development of laboratory procedures capable of identifying individuals based on highly variable regions of the genome.

  • Growing statistical confirmation of the validity and subsequent general acceptance of DNA forensics in the courtroom.

Forensic Research and Natural Resources

The popularity of the TV show "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," as well as bestselling novels by Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs, Jeffrey Deaver, and others underscores our ongoing fascination with the study of forensic science. But forensic science is not just limited to human DNA; indeed, it is equally important to a better understanding of wildlife populations and their diversity.

Some examples of forensic research by wildlife biologists include:

  • Identification of illegally poached animals based upon hair and tissue samples. These samples can reveal the sex and species of the animal, and can be used to prosecute poachers.
  • DNA fingerprinting of individual grizzly bears in Glacier National Park through DNA acquired from hair and scat samples. The resulting data reveals valuable data about each bear's unique genetic pattern, as well as sex and degree of relatedness.
  • Analysis of medicinal herbs from Asia to detect the presence of endangered plant species.

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