Thursday, January 29, 2015

DIY Barcoding identifies fungus on lemon

An unknown mold on a Citrus limon tree was isolated and identified using standard microbiology protocols: streaking, microscopy, and DNA barcoding. This was done to identify invasive mold that was hindering the growth of C. limon fruit and to catalog its relationship with other similar fungal species. The method details an efficient and cost-effective way to isolate and identify a wild-type organism.

This is the abstract to a paper I came across earlier this week. It sounds very standard and provides yet another great example for the utility of the DNA Barcoding method. However, there is something very unusual about this publication that makes it very special: It has been published in the newest issue of BioCoder and this journal is a newsletter of the Biology DIY movement. 

The research presented in this paper is the result of the DIY efforts of a web developer and a network security expert both of them with a strong interest in biology. These two hobby researchers provide us with a neat little study on the identification of mold species that negatively impact fruit tree growth. Not only an ingenious idea but also an extremely well executed and professionally presented study:

Louis Huang and Alan Rockefeller
Cataloging Strains: Isolation and Identification of Invasive Fungi on Citrus limon

What makes such reports even more valuable from a research point of view is the intrinsic attention to detail when it comes to methods. DIY research enthusiasts actually are very eager to share the methods they've used to arrive at their results. Researchers of course do the same to allow the community to reproduce the results and build on them. However, the DIY movement thrives on this aspect as there is a lot more emphasis on finding simple and cost effective ways to reach the same level of professionalism and quality of results. Amateurs that engage in research are taking their work very seriously and are not always met with the full appreciation of the scientific community but papers such as this one show that we should look very closely at what they are doing. We as professionals can actually learn a great deal from them especially when it comes to simplicity, accessibility, and meticulousness.

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