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Trent Professor Instrumental in Discovery of Panda Cubs’ Gender

Toronto Zoo recognizes expertise of Trent's Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensic Centre

With the birth of two new panda cubs at the Toronto Zoo in October, Toronto Zoo staff enlisted the help of Dr. Brad White, director of the Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensic Centre and professor at Trent University for his help in identifying the new cubs’ genders.

Telling the gender of pandas based on their appearance isn’t straightforward. Toronto Zoo staff delivered cheek-cell samples taken of the panda cubs to Trent’s DNA testing lab where Professor White used innovative DNA testing technology, specifically sexing protocols provided by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics. Four days later, the results were in: the pandas were a boy and a girl.

“We’ve had a productive, research and educational partnership on conservation with the Toronto Zoo and we were happy to help with identifying the sex of the panda cubs,” explained Prof. White of his work on the project.

Prof. White’s lab is involved in numerous research projects in collaboration with private partners and does plenty of DNA work on many different species. This is the first time Prof. White and his team have worked with pandas. 

“We have had a long ongoing relationship with Trent University on a number of different research projects and we want to thank them for their partnership on this project,” explained Maria Franke, curator of mammals at the Toronto Zoo.

To learn more about Prof. White’s research, visit

Posted on Monday, March 7, 2016.

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