At the moment I’m currently working on building a molecular phylogeny* for the beetles I have collected during my phD. The intention is to overlay this phylogeny to help better understand the really interesting beetle trait patterns we’ve found so far. Basically, is the beetle bigger in old-growth because it’s relatives are bigger, or is it due to environmental conditions? Going into this I thought molecular work would be straightforward ….how wrong I was! (N.B. previous to my phD, I had never really done genetics before – hence the naivety)
At this stage I’ve extracted DNA from 155 specimens and it looked like we got reasonable yields of DNA. However, there also looked to be other stuff in the mix (carbohydrates etc.) that was getting in the way – the nano-drop (a spectrophotometer) showed some pretty strange readings. The reason behind this probably stemmed from my extraction technique. Instead of doing the traditional ‘pulverising the specimen’ technique, I simply put the whole beetle in an enzyme bath and left it there for 24 hours. It turns out that this technique left the irritating residue. So now I have to purify all of this DNA so I can do the PCR and then finally get some sequences back! I’m going to try either the Ethanol precipitation method or Propyethylene Glycol (PEG) method, and hopefully I have some success! I will let you know.
*a family tree using DNA to work out who is related to whom