California Academy of Sciences Purchases
Innovative DNA Technology

SAN FRANCISCO (January 19, 1999) – Scientists and researchers at the California Academy of Sciences’ Osher Molecular Laboratory are poised to take a quantum leap toward understanding global biodiversity and evolutionary biology with the purchase of DNA sequencing equipment. Using DNA sequencing techniques, Academy scientists will be better equipped to reach goals essential to biosystematics (the examination of taxonomic relationships between organisms) such as discovering evolutionary relationships, examining rates of evolution, and assessing the processes of speciation and hybridization. The new instrumentation will also raise public awareness of evolution as a central feature of biology.

DNA sequencing instruments sequentially break strands of genetic material, allowing for comparisons of incremental measurements of DNA to precisely gauge geneotypical differences between organisms. Researchers at the California Academy of Sciences will primarily use the DNA sequencer to classify biological specimens. The Academy has an active field collection program that enables scientists to continually collect specimens that are new to science. These specimens are frequently identified right here at the Academy using electron microscopy.

DNA sequencing at major research institutions has been stimulated by the U.S. Department of Energy’s 15 year Human Genome Project designed to map the entire DNA sequence -- every gene on every chromosome, representing the entire human genome. The acquisition of a DNA sequencer allows the California Academy of Sciences to remain at the forefront of systematics in line with its sister institutions, including the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and the Field Museum in Chicago.

The DNA sequencer will initially be used by curatorial researchers from the departments of entomology, botany, herpetology, and invertebrate zoology.

DNA technology is an essential tool for scientists and researchers to continue broadening our understanding of the evolutionary process in order to protect our living heritage.