A Beaver Up Your Sleeve, or What Happened on Wednesday

On Wednesday, we went into the Joseph Moore Museum research collections and decided on three museum specimens to sample for sequencing.

The first was a male Castor canadensis, the North American beaver. It was collected in 1965 from Beaver Creek in Alaska. Initially, we wanted to sample from one of its toe pads, but it turns out whoever prepped its skin turned its feet inside out so the pads were unreachable. Heather tried really hard to get to them, though!

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A beaver up your sleeve? Heather tries to reach the beaver’s toe pads.


We ended up taking a molar from its skull instead.

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Maren extracts a molar from the beaver specimen.


The second specimen was a male Geomys bursarius, the plains pocket gopher. It was collected in 2001 from Gimlet Lake in Nebraska. Pocket gophers are pretty small, and therefore don’t have very large toe pads, so we elected to sample teeth from this specimen as well.


Plains Pocket Gopher (Geomys bursarius)


The final specimen was a Dipodomys ordii, the Ord’s kangaroo rat. It was also collected from Gimlet Lake in Nebraska, in 2010. The sex of this specimen was unknown because the tag was marked with an ambiguous gender symbol. This specimen had no skull associated with it, so we were sampled a toe pad. However, its entire right front paw was barely hanging on. We decided to help it along the rest of the way, and took the entire paw.


Ord’s Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ordii)

In addition to sampling museum specimens, we also took time on Wednesday to clean the ancient lab. It had been a while since anyone had used it extensively, so it needed a deep clean. Everything, and I mean everything, had to be wiped down with bleach to get rid of any potential contaminating DNA. Benchtops, equipment, bags of tubes, and boxes of gloves, all bleached thoroughly. We swept the floors and organized everything as well, all while wearing full body suits and masks to prevent our own DNA from contaminating the lab. It was hard work, but everything looked great once we were done.

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All suited up for the ancient DNA lab (Left to right: Heather Lerner, Emily Buttrum, Maren Schroeder)

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