BAR HARBOR, MAINE – Karen James, Ph.D., a scientist at the MDI Biological Laboratory who leads the “BioTrails” project linking citizen scientists with new genetic tools, will lead the first of the summer MDI Science Cafés in Northeast Harbor. “Code of the Wild: DNA Barcoding for Research and Conservation” will be held at the Asticou Inn on Monday, June 17 at 5 p.m.
James will discuss how and why DNA-based species identification (“DNA barcoding”) assists environmental monitoring and conservation efforts. “Our environment is changing, and tools like DNA barcoding can help both professional and citizen scientists learn which species are thriving and which are challenged by these changes,” James says.
“Environmental science and conservation rely heavily on the correct identification of animals, plants and other organisms in the field,” she adds, “and experts in taxonomy are scarce. DNA barcoding makes the job much easier.”
The BioTrails project is a partnership between MDIBL, Acadia National Park, and the Schoodic Education and Research Center Institute. Beginning this summer, adults volunteers without scientific training will work with James to monitor local species using DNA barcoding. The project is funded in part by the National Science Foundation.
James has a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Washington and formerly led a citizen-science initiative at the Natural History Museum in London, England. She is co-founder and director of the HMS Beagle Trust, which plans to rebuild the ship that carried Charles Darwin around the world and inspired his passion for science. The goal of her work, James says, “is to help increase humanity’s capacity to understand and manage how environmental change affects the diversity and distribution of living organisms upon which our lives and societies so utterly rely.”
MDIBL sponsors the MDI Science Cafés to give the public opportunities to learn more about the science that affects their lives. At each café, a scientist gives a brief presentation in plain English and expects lots of questions, discussion, and debate. Admission is free and refreshments are available. Cafés will be held on alternate Mondays at 5 p.m. at the Asticou Inn from June 17 through September 9. See mdibl.org or call 207-288-3147 for more information.