In a paper published today in Scientific Reports, researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, detail for the first time the opportunities for plant sciences that are now available with portable, real-time DNA sequencing.
Kew scientist and co-author of the paper Joe Parker says; "This research proves that we can now rapidly read the DNA sequence of an organism to identify it with minimum equipment. Rapidly reading DNA anywhere, at will, should become a routine step in many research fields. Despite hundreds of years of taxonomic research, it is still not always easy to work out which species a plant belongs to just by looking at it. Few people could correctly identify all the species in their own gardens."
Over the last forty years, DNA sequencing has revolutionized the scientific world but has remained laboratory-bound. Using current methods, a complete experiment to identify a species, from fieldwork to result, could easily take a scientist months to complete. Species identification is, by nature, a largely a field-based area of pursuit, thereby limiting the pace of discovery and decision making that can depend upon it. Using new technology to identify species quickly and on-site is critical for scientific research, the conservation of biodiversity and in the fight against species crime.