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Nanopore DNA sequencing in forensics: wildlife crime and conservation

Project supervisors: Dr Celia May, Professor Mark Jobling and Dr Jon Wetton - Department of Genetics

University of registration: University of Leicester

Non-Academic partner: Zoe McDougall, Oxford Nanopore Technologies

Project title: Nanopore DNA sequencing in forensics: wildlife crime and conservation

Project outline:

DNA analysis has become a vital tool for wildlife conservation both through monitoring biodiversity but also by providing evidence in the fight against wildlife crime. The greatest need is within developing countries where the threats to wild populations are most severe but the necessary resources are often lacking, requiring samples to be sent abroad for analysis. This is expensive but also inconvenient, often to the detriment of sample quality, and adding complexity to the chain of custody, which can greatly affect admissibility of DNA evidence in court. Nanopore sequencing has the potential to free DNA analysis from the specialist laboratory, enabling tests to be performed at an affordable price when and where required. Hand- portable third-generation DNA sequencers such as the MinION developed by the industrial sponsor Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) are intended to make sequencing commonplace by simplifying as much of the process as possible with disposable microfluidic units ultimately performing stages that are currently manually performed.

This studentship will explore the capabilities of nanopore sequencing for capacity building in countries that lack easy access to DNA laboratories. A primary need is to analyse mtDNA, not only the highly conserved barcode genes which allow assignment to taxonomic group, but also the hypervariable DNA regions. The latter can discriminate between different maternal lineages within a population as a result of very high mutation rates, whilst other regions of mtDNA with intermediate rates offer information at the sub-species/population levels.

Closing date for applications: 8th January 2017

Check eligibilty and apply here

Please note:

iCASE students must fulfil the MIBTP entry requirements and will join the MIBTP cohort for the taught modules and masterclasses during the first term. iCASE students can then start their PhD project in Jan 2018 but must complete a 3-month miniproject (at a non-home institution) before the end of their first year. They will remain as an integral part of the MIBTP cohort and take part in the core networking activities and transferable skills training. MIBTP iCase.