This is Dr. Bober and her rescue dog Fortune next to my trail camera. Dr. Bober was one of my Santa Monica College (SMC) instructors in the SMC team-taught Bio-22: Genetics and Molecular Biology course during the Fall semester-2016. Early this month I proposed my research to her and asked if she would support the project via the Independent Studies program at SMC. She not only agreed to mentor me over the next few months but she is excited to learn about the wildlife of Stough Canyon and the non-invasive means to track their presence.
Dr. Bober volunteers with Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) and No Kill Los Angeles (NKLA) and has a huge love for animals. She got her Bachelors in Animal Sciences and her PhD in Animal Physiology (Physiological Sciences). I had the pleasure of showing her around the Stough Canyon Nature Center this week. She even showed up with an entire new camera system for the project! Because of this generous donation I now have doubled the chances of seeing wildlife in the vastness of Stough Canyon. More cameras will also allow me to obtain quality data. This contribution is truly appreciated. Thank you! So how does the SMC Genetics and Molecular Biology course relate to monitoring urban wildlife populations using non invasive techniques such as camera traps? To answer that question we must first discuss what non invasive monitoring techniques are.
Noninvasive Monitoring Techniques
Remote trap cameras
Footprint Identification Techniques (FIT)
DNA Extraction & Analysis
using VNTRs, STRs, SNPs,
microsatellite DNA panels
via hair snagging devices, fecal samples
Benefits of Noninvasive Monitoring Techniques
Dr. Bober's molecular biology class covered many relevant topics in lecture and in the laboratory. The applicable lab work done in her class included:
DNA/ RNA Isolation & Detection via Gel Electrophoresis
Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphisms (RFLP)
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)
Southern Blot (with theory covering Northern & Western techniques)
Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA)
DNA must first be isolated from the various biologic samples in order for biologists to analyze an animal’s DNA via scat analysis and hair snagging devices. The DNA can then be PCR amplified and sequenced using a dideoxy sequencing method with primers designed to target specific and unique DNA sequences. Examples of target sequences that can serve as a DNA fingerprint include Variable Number Tandem Repeats (VNTRs), Short Tandem Repeats (STRs), Micro-satellites and Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs). These genetic markers may allow one to study identity, sex, mutations, genetic diversity, etc. for a species or population. Also biologists could possibly perform a Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP) analysis on a PCR amplified product as a molecular tool to further identify specific target sequence. RFLP analysis is dependent on the nature of the specific sequence and a corresponding restriction enzyme. All of these techniques that can be applied to wildlife biology were also covered in the molecular portion of the Bio-22: Genetics and Molecular Biology course both from a eukaryotic (with a human emphasis) and prokaryotic perspective.
Keep a look out for more updates this week. As usual, thanks for visiting!