DNA is in virtually everything, with higher quality DNA being obtained from samples like blood or tissue, and lower quality DNA found in scat, bone, or the environment. Depending on the research application, we can choose to utilize different types of tissues and usually, we choose what is easiest to collect. For e.g., a blood sample is hard to obtain, but its DNA quantity and quality are high; for some applications we can make do with scat from the animal instead.
In 2018, we created a large-scale, concurrent, wildlife monitoring program for birds, bats, small terrestrial mammals, medium-large mammals, and nonhuman primates at the Estación Biológica Río Los Amigos, in Peru.
Today we annually sample ~ 1000 vertebrates in approximately 7 weeks in conjuction with our educational programs.
In 2018 we also started establishing field molecular laboratories to DNA barcode all animals sampled in the region.
First, there was the Inkaterra Green Lab, the Amazon’s first molecular genomics laboratory.
In the Madre de Dios Department of Peru, we now do most of our work at the Los Amigos Wildlife Conservation Laboratory.
Beginning in 2021 we expanded this model from Peru to other regions of the world, where similar work was needed.
Two more laboratories are starting up in Kigali (Rwanda) and Vinh (Vietnam)
In 2024 we have planned expansions in Indonesia
DNA provides a unique signature for every organism, if you know where to look in its genome. Using near-universal genetic markers we are expanding the DNA barcode library for multiple biodiverse habitats including the Madre de Dios of Peru, the Annamite Mountains of Vietnam, and the East African marshlands of Rwanda.
By tracking individual signatures from some unusual sources of DNA, we hope to monitor species that cannot be approached easily. For example, SNP genotyping DNA from footprints, scat, hair snares, or scent-marks can allow us to build databases of the DNA fingerprint of individual animals at our field site. To do this, we use portable sequencing in field laboratories.