Tag Archives: deer

Genetics to the rescue!

7 May

It’s somewhere between pet peeve, best compliment, and favorite inside-the-lab joke when someone says “do the genetics”.  As in “hey we found this piece of fur/tissue/excreta out in the field, could you do the genetics on it?” or “we want to know XYZ, couldn’t you just do the genetics and tell us?”

Who is that masked lab geek?

Of course I want to just swoop down like some sort of laboratory super hero – cape swirling around the tops of my knee-high boots, hands propped powerfully on my magical pipetter tool belt – and declare, “Never fear, I shall DO THE GENETICS!”  My battle cry would probably be “Multiplex!” or something geeky yet powerful.

In fact, my genetic super hero alter ego was recently called forth her biosafety-level-2 phone booth to do the genetics for a Department of Natural Resources in distress.

Chronic wasting disease was recently detected in a deer from northern Wisconsin – that’s almost 200 miles further north than anyone was expecting to see a case of this disease that, until now, had remained primarily localized in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.  This disease has been a constant concern for the DNR, a consternation for hunters, and a cost of many state dollars.  Needless to say, an entirely new outbreak was a bit disconcerting.  Questions were raised, speculations were rampant.  How did a diseased deer show up so far from the hot zone?  Was there a conspiracy?  Was someone illegally transporting deer?  Were captive deer farms leaking disease on to the landscape?  Was it just all a big bungled mistake?

Couldn’t someone just do the genetics and find out…Never fear!

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Is the legislature suitable habitat for conservation?

11 May

Too many wolves!  Never enough deer!  Who says?  Well, now the law says, that’s who!

Recent legislative actions, at the national and local scales, have given ear to concerned constituents and have mandated wildlife management based on public sentiment – as opposed to biological information.  Does this signify a triumph for democracy or a defeat of science in the public sphere?
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A family that samples together…

5 May

Among the finest votes of confidence I’ve received: a biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources assured me I would clearly be able to accomplish grand things in my future, because I had managed to turn my sample collection into a family vacation.  That’s right, I convinced my parents and sister to leave the comfortable southern warmth of Arkansas and travel to northern Illinois (in December!) to collect bits of deer tissue from hunter check stations, so that I would have plenty of samples for the analysis of deer population genetic patterns relative to the CWD-infected zone in the Midwest.

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