Universal species identification in the field by rapid and affordable nanopore DNA sequencing

Determining species of origin from biological traces is often achieved by reading “barcode” genes in mitochondrial DNA which differ in sequence between species. Currently DNA sequencing must be performed in a laboratory due to the size and complexity of the equipment and the manual stages required to prepare the DNA for analysis. Third-generation nanopore sequencing will allow this to be done at a suspected crime scene yielding a species identification in an hour rather than days, with minimal training. This would allow rapid detection and arrest which would have both a deterrent effect and raise public awareness.

This project, supported by a $10K USAID Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge prize to Jon Wetton, and in partnership with Oxford Nanopore Technologies, aims to develop a single hand-portable device to test stains in rhino poaching cases, identify bushmeat and detect substitution of protected species in the caviar trade among many other possible applications.

Currently, Orie Shaw is supported as a BBSRC-MIBTP student in this area, partnered with Oxford Nanopore Technologies, and Ettore Fedele is studying mountain gorilla diversity using the same technologies under a NERC-CENTA PhD studentship. Recently, Emily Patterson has joined us as a BBSRC-MIBTP student, partnered with Twycross Zoo and in collaboration with Zoological Society of London, to develop new methods for species ID with a focus on Mongolia.

See our video here

Wildlife Conservation – University of Leicester


Please forward any enquiries regarding the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge to Jon Wetton (jw418@le.ac.uk) or Celia May (cam5@le.ac.uk).

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