The early approaches used by Forest Research involving biochemical markers such as terpenes and isozymes have been largely superseded by DNA based methods.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
The DNA based methods utilise the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to copy and multiply up small regions of the genome using short nucleotide sequences known as primers. The initial PCR methods that were used were RAPDs (Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA) and these required no prior knowledge of the genome in order to work.
We have now progressed to more sophisticated approaches such as microsatellites which require sequence information in order to work. Microsatellites are regions of short tandem repeats which tend to be highly variable. This feature makes them very useful for genotyping individuals and exploring the genetic structure of populations and the geneflow ocurring within them.
The molecular laboratory at Forest Research has worked on the following species:
As an approach to monitoring black grouse populations, we developed a real-time PCR based assay to distinguish between faecal droppings from black grouse and two other tetraonid species that can occur sympatrically; red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus) and capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) in order to monitor black grouse populations.
The real-time PCR approach is several orders of magnitude more sensitive than traditional PCR methods and is, therefore, appropriate for field collected faecal samples which tend to yield poor quality DNA in low copy number.