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Trent Students Discuss DNA and You at Royal Ontario Museum

Representatives from the Natural Resource DNA Profiling and Forensic Centre at Trent engage youth on topic of DNA at ROM’s Curator’s Corner event

Trent Students Discuss DNA and You at Royal Ontario Museum
Trent Students Discuss DNA and You at Royal Ontario Museum

Three representatives from the Natural Resource DNA Profiling and Forensic Centre (NRDPFC) at Trent, including two graduate students, were special guests at the Royal Ontario Museum’s DNA and You Curator’s Corner event on Saturday, July 27, 2013.

Christine Ouellet, a wildlife forensic scientist at the NRDPFC and a Trent alumna, together with first-year Environmental and Life Sciences master’s student Derek Walker and Ph.D. candidate, Vythegi Srithayakumar, also in the Environmental and Life Sciences graduate program, put together a display, along with games and trivia, to get youth interested in DNA. More than 500 youth between the ages of three and 19 attended the Curator’s Corner event.

“We used DNA to explain to the kids how and why animals and species can look similar to each other as well as very different from each other,” said Ms. Ouellet. “We also had some evidence from past cases (rope and leaf with blood stains) and some evidence collection envelopes on display for the forensic aspect of the NRDPFC. In order to get kids excited about DNA and get them a little more involved, we came up with four mock cases that they had to solve using DNA profiles.”

The DNA and You event was headed by ROM molecular biologists Oliver Haddrath and Kristen Choffe who work with the museum’s gigantic collection of DNA samples. The NRDPFC display was enhanced with pieces from the ROM’s various collections, including animal skulls (black bear, wolf, coyote, owl, and bat), vertebrae from a beluga whale, Komodo dragon teeth, a black bear pelt and the paw of a polar bear.

“It was very much a fun and educational experience for the kids,” said Ms. Ouellet.

As an opportunity to showcase the work of the NRDPFC, the Curator’s Corner event also provided the chance to promote Trent’s Forensic Science Camp to kids and their parents. A unique learning environment for campers ages 13-17, the Forensic Science Camp boasts enriching hands-on activities and the chance to learn from practising experts in disciplines such as wildlife forensics, forensic entomology, forensic anthropology, and bloodstain pattern analysis.

About the NRDPFC

The Natural Resources DNA Profiling & Forensic Centre (NRDPFC), located in the DNA Building, is a partnership between Trent University and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The NRDPFC is a non-profit organization established for the benefit of wildlife management.  The Centre is equipped with instrumentation for robotic, high throughput, long-term genetic monitoring of natural populations. The NRDPFC is currently involved in collaborations to produce DNA profiling data bases on a number of Ontario species, including caribou, moose, white-tailed deer, wolves, black bears and elk. For more information, visit:

Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013.

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