Congratulations to Beth for having her CRISPR-based barcoding paper published at Molecular Ecology Resources! The paper is available ahead of print on the publisher's website and we will post a PDF to our lab's publications page. Our original summary based on her preprint in June is still available in the text that follows.
Beth just posted a much-anticipated BioRxiv preprint describing our new efforts to repurpose CRISPR technology in ways that might help overcome persistent drawbacks to PCR and other targeted enrichment strategies in molecular ecology (doi: 10.1101/2023.06.30.547247v1). We show that we can obtain highly accurate plant DNA barcodes and assemble entire chloroplast genomes. These advances could help with species identification, discovery, and the construction of DNA reference libraries for use in a variety of applications. Moreover, we show incredible accuracy when it comes to estimating the relative abundance of DNA from a mixture of species compared to typical PCR-based methods for DNA metabarcoding.
We hope the experimental methods will be of interest and that folks working in the field will see the great potential. Once scalable, these advantages could really transform the quality and completeness of many projects that we do in the lab -- and the kinds of project we know a lot of folks are out there trying to do around the world as well!
The approach was noted to be a potentially 'high risk / high reward' of the NSF CAREER award that supported our work. We'll update once it is peer-reviewed and published.
An exciting paper from the lab on lizard behavior, let by (former) undergraduate all-star Thomas Patti, appears today in Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. The "Bite and Seek" paper focuses on the exploratory behaviors and bite force of the Podarcis lizard colony that we had on campus. Thomas and the team tested an extensive series of hypotheses about the relationship between behaviors observed in populations of this non-native lizard species and the recency of population establishment. All else equal, propensity for exploration might be expected to facilitate the establishment of new populations -- lizards have to explore at least a little to get somewhere new -- and thus recently founded populations should comprise groups of explorers. Not so in nature, Thomas reports, and this requires us to take a more nuanced view of behavioral 'syndromes' as sets of traits and behaviors that may be associated with invasion potential and success in non-native species. Great work Thomas, Colin, Andy, and Caroline!