Trent University Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory Services
DNA is used to identify and confirm the species of origin of items of evidence suspected of being involved in illegal commercialization or illegal trade as defined by the CITES convention. Species identification is performed using DNA markers, which are conserved within a species but variable between species. By comparing the sequences obtained at these markers with those of known controls we can determine, with up to 99 percent confidence, the species of origin.
We can also resolve individual species present in mixed meat products such has sausages to determine if specific species are being illegally processed. This has been previously carried out with wild game meats such as moose and deer as well as several bird species such as Canada goose.
By examining X and Y chromosome specific DNA from evidence lacking gender-specific morphological characteristics then we can establish an animal’s gender. This process is routinely used to determine the gender of an animal using materials such as blood, hair or muscle as well as several other types of biological materials.
Mammals: DNA from evidence items are examined at a region of the Zfx/Zfy genes on the X and Y-chromosomes and a region of the sry gene on the Y-chromosome. Thus females would exhibit a single Zfx gene from the two X chromosomes where as males would show two gene products from each of the Zfy and male specific sry genes
Birds: Examination of the Z and W chromosome-specific CDH (chromo-helicase binding protein) gene allows the determination of the gender of a number of bird species, including falcons, common eiders and turkey. In birds it is the females, rather than males, that exhibit heterogamety.
Short tandem repeat (STR) analysis is carried out for purposes of individual identification, assignment of population of origin and parentage determination. STRs are stretches of short repeated DNA sequences that are highly polymorphic. These differences can be detected and thus used to establish the individual identity of an animal.
DNA from evidence items is interrogated using a species specific array of STRs. If two evidence items exhibit the same pattern of STRs, then the probability of the samples originating from the same individual is calculated based on the most frequent alleles present in a DNA database from the species of interest.
Our laboratory has established databases for the most common species that we work with such as moose and deer from Ontario and Newfoundland as well as several fish species amongst many others. We can also establish new databases for novel species as the need arises.
Population identification has proven important in the prosecution of cases where an animal is being claimed as originating from one geographic region but is suspected to have been taken from another, where hunting may not have been permitted. This analysis has been carried out for Ontario moose, Newfoundland caribou and several populations of walleye from various lakes in Ontario.
Parentage analysis is performed to determine if captive bred animals are the legal offspring of registered breeding pairs or if animals have been illegally obtained from wild stocks. Other cases that have been handled by the lab requested that we determine confirm a sibling relationship between a number of animals thought to be from the same litter.
Expert Testimony and Consultation
Researchers and Forensic Scientists from the Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory provide expert testimony and consultation services for Conservation officers and other law enforcement officials across Canada.
Dr. Bradley N. White, Dr. Paul J. Wilson, and Dina Abdelhakim have been accepted as expert witnesses and provided testimony for more that 30 cases over the last 12 years in Ontario, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia Provincial Courts.
||Trent University Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory
DNA Building, Rm A109
2140 East Bank Drive, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, K9L 1Z8
Phone: (705) 748-1011 x7687| Fax (705) 748-1132