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Hi, Reddit! We're scientists at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute's Center for Conservation Genomics. We use genomics to save threatened species -- ask us anything!
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The Smithsonian’s Center for Conservation Genomicshttps://nationalzoo.si.edu/center-for-conservation-genomics (CCG) uses genomics to better understand how we can care for and sustain genetically diverse animal populations in human care and in the wild. We use DNA, RNA and more to uncover information about the evolutionary history of animals and to determine the importance of genetic variation in their future survival. This information can be used to answer questions about everything from diseases to animal behavior. We collaborate with other scientists across the Smithsonian, and with institutions and agencies around the world. Here are just some of the things we do with genomics: Use non-invasive DNA collection from feces, hair, saliva and more to help conservationists find and count endangered species (link) Identify new species or use ancient DNA to determine when and if speciation reversal occurs (link) Use DNA from century-old deceased bats to analyze how white-nose syndrome impacts bats living today (link) Determine the sex of a baby animals from a small DNA sample (e.g., a baby porcupine and a quill) Map genomes to decode family trees of animals like Asian elephants to better understand health concerns and treatments (link) Determine if an invasive species is actually invasive (link) We’re doing this AMA as part of the National Human Genome Research Institute’s National DNA Day Reddit AMA series and are excited to answer any questions you have about genomics, DNA research or conservation biology! Ask us anything! Your hosts are: Nancy McInerney, B.S., Marquette University. I train students, researchers and visiting scientists in how genomics can be used in conservation and assist the Zoo with projects like disease detection, sex identification of newborn animals and paternity testing. I have worked on projects including sequencing mitogenomes of California sea otters, analyzing eDNA to locate endangered freshwater turtles, monitoring the impact Chytrid fungus on amphibians and sequencing the DNA of museum specimens. Jesus Maldonado, B.S. and M.S., Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania; Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles. I have been a research geneticist at SCBI since 1998. My research applies molecular genetics tools to answer questions about conservation and evolutionary biology in mammals. I assess the genetic variation within and among populations and species to document levels of genetic diversity and determine evolutionary, taxonomic and conservation significance. While my research has many theoretical aspects, the outcomes of these studies have direct applications that help threatened and endangered animals. I am active in education programs and have mentored more than 26 undergraduate students on research projects dealing with the population genetics of mammals, birds and reptiles.