DNA better than eyes when
counting endangered species
By Brian Wallheimer
March 10, 2011
Using genetic methods to count endangered eagles, a group of scientists showed that traditional counting methods can lead to significantly incorrect totals that they believe could adversely affect conservation efforts.
Andrew DeWoody, a professor of genetics at Purdue University; Jamie Ivy, population manager at the San Diego Zoo; and Todd Katzner, a research assistant professor at the University of West Virginia, found that visual counts of imperial and white-tailed sea eagles in the Narzum National Nature Reserve of Kazakhstan significantly underestimated the imperial eagle population there. Using DNA from eagle feathers gathered in the area, the researchers were able to identify individual DNA fingerprints for each bird.