wildlife forensics

A Molecular Biologist in the Field

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For a molecular biologist, Dr. Tracie Seimon travels to the most amazing and challenging places to do labwork. She was featured in a video in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year where she talks about packing up the mobile molecular lab and heading out to Myanmar for the health survey of the Burmese star tortoise program: A Bronx Zoo Molecular Biologist Packs for Myanmar – Wildlife Conservation Society.

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Outside of wildlife conservation, she finds time to part of a research team performing analysis on the 2013 El Reno Storm, the world’s largest documented tornado with windspeeds reaching up to 300 mph. Their project gathers and analyzes video footage and other data from storm chasers to support and contribute to scientific research on tornadoes. For more info: http://el-reno-survey.net/

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Animal Traffic By JODY ROSEN for T Magazine

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<strong>UNDER THE KNIFE</strong> Taking DNA samples from totoaba swim bladders, a delicacy that can fetch as much as $10,000 on the black market in China.
UNDER THE KNIFE Taking DNA samples from totoaba swim bladders, a delicacy that can fetch as much as $10,000 on the black market in China.Credit Richard Barnes

“Today, wildlife trafficking is a sophisticated international enterprise, with low risks and high profits drawing in organized crime: Russian mobsters, Irish crime families, extremist organizations like Darfur’s janjaweed militias and Somalia’s Al Shabab, a terror group with ties to Al Qaeda.

These developments are putting wildlife crime on the agendas of policymakers and adding urgency to the efforts of the Ashland scientists. Recently, Ed Espinoza has been spending a lot of time thinking about wood. The illicit timber trade — the logging and trafficking of precious hardwoods from forests in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America — is a multibillion dollar industry. The huge profits have attracted violent criminal gangs, who are destabilizing the already precarious rule of law in developing countries. For law enforcement, the timber trade poses a vexing problem. Smugglers typically ship timber after it’s been milled, a process that obliterates morphological markers. How can illegal logging be stymied if the authorities are unable to distinguish legitimate wood products from contraband?”

Read more here.