Category Archives: Laurence Clarke

(Re)introducing the microbial buddy system

By Laurence Clarke

Co-extinction may be the most common form of extinction there is. From the Tasmanian tiger to the gastric-brooding frog, it’s no secret that lots of Australia’s animals have gone extinct. But many tiny microorganisms were dependent on these large animals. What happened to these microbes after the loss of their bigger buddies, and, if we can bring the animals back, will their microbes return too? Continue reading

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What bug was that?

By Laurence Clarke

Insects are the most diverse group of animals on the planet, playing important roles as disease carriers, pollinators, and agricultural pests. So, when we want to know what insects are spreading disease, why certain plants are growing (or why they aren’t), or even for BlockQuote3conservation, it’s important that we can identify insect species accurately. I’ve recently developed new tools to identify insects using their DNA. Continue reading

Environmental DNA: working out where things live by the DNA they leave behind.

By Laurence Clarke

All organisms leave traces of their DNA behind in the environment, for example, in hair, skin, faeces, eggs, larvae etc. By extracting and sequencing DNA from environmental samples such as soil or river water, we can identify the species that have contributed DNA to that sample, in the same way that a forensics expert can determine who was present at a crime scene. Environmental DNA (eDNA) methods were first applied to microbial communities such as bacteria and fungi. In the last few years, the breadth of eDNA studies has expanded to include plants, invertebrate and vertebrates. In one (slightly gruesome) study, researchers were able to detect DNA from over 20 different mammal species Continue reading