The Molecular Lab at Powdermill is a great resource because it allows us to analyze samples in-house from field studies being conducted on the reserve.
Currently, we are extracting and amplifying insect DNA from Chimney Swift feces in order to determine the dietary composition of these declining aerial insectivores. We are also screening swabs taken from amphibians and reptiles surveyed across the reserve for the presence of pathogens such as chytrid fungus, which is decimating amphibian populations across the globe.
Another ongoing lab effort involves devising a protocol for the detection of gill lice DNA from trout stream water samples. Gill lice are parasites that attach themselves to the gills of trout. This protocol would allow us to detect the presence of the parasite from a sample of water alone, without having to catch and examine the trout directly.
Andrea Kautz is a Research Entomologist at Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Powdermill Nature Reserve. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.