Recognizing opportunities to develop approaches that use new DNA technologies is Dr. Travis Glenn’s forte. Work that he initiated within weeks of joining EHS in late 2007 was featured in the News & Analysis section of the 4 October 2013 issue of Science. Dr. Glenn teamed up with UGA graduate Brant Faircloth (now at UCLA) and others to develop a new approach that uses a few (expensive) full genome sequences and new high throughput DNA sequencing machines to sequence information-rich portions of additional genomes at very low cost. Work published later by another group who independently developed a similar approach for a much smaller portion of the genome is also covered in the Science article. Dr. Glenn’s team now includes colleagues at more than 8 other institutions who collaborate to develop and use their new approach to obtain large-scale genomic data from hundreds of species and tackle some of the hardest problems in evolutionary biology.
“We developed techniques to use highly conserved DNA elements to obtain comparable DNA sequences from thousands of species. This work absolutely required a multidisciplinary team for success and has been among the most enjoyable of my career. We first applied the approach to solve long-standing mysteries in the tree of life, such as the evolutionary origin of turtles. We are now applying this same approach to a variety of questions applicable to environmental health. Using this approach to understand the evolutionary relationships among species was just the first door among many we will open with this technology”, said Glenn.
More information can be found at http://ultraconserved.org
Posted October 4, 2013.