Incorporating molecular genetics into remote expedition fieldwork

Author/Creator ORCID





Citation of Original Publication

Bunting, S., Burnett, E., Hunter, R. B., Field, R., & Hunter, K. L. (2014). Incorporating molecular genetics into remote expedition fieldwork. Tropical Conservation Science, 7(2), 260-271.


Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States


Conservation expedition groups that use volunteer researchers are widespread in the United Kingdom and are growing in popularity around the world. These expeditions operate in regions of high biodiversity to study and protect the endemic species of these areas. New products have now made it possible to conduct molecular analyses in the field. We tested this in a volunteer-based conservation expedition to an area of tropical montane rainforest and cloud forest in Cusuco National Park, Honduras. Specifically, we (1) tested and modified recommended protocols for use of the new molecular techniques on a wide range of plant and animal species in the field, (2) tested the ability of novice volunteers to successfully use these techniques after minimal introductory training, and (3) used the novel techniques to conduct a small-scale population genetic study of Liquidambar styraciflua L. while on expedition. We found the techniques to be effective on all plant and animal species tested, with some modification of manufacturers' protocols. We also found that novice student volunteers were able to learn the required theory and protocols for the new technology, collect reliable data, and perform basic genetic analyses in a week-long DNA field sampling course. Finally, the Liquidambar case study demonstrated that genetic analyses can be successfully completed in primitive field conditions. These findings have exciting implications for work that can be done in remote locations, often areas of the greatest conservation significance.