Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 4252
Title: Popular misconceptions
Author: Robert C. Vrijenhoek, Robin S. Waples
Publication Year: 2012
Journal: Molecular Ecology
Volume: 21
Issue: 17
Pages: 4155-4156
Keywords: Genetics,ecology,molecular

No substitutes exist for an intimate knowledge of your organisms, the characters you plan to study, and the tools and technology you need to obtain ecological and evolutionary data.  We started in this field during the late 1960s and 1970s, respectively, when life was easier, just seining fish and counting scales, fin rays, teeth, chromosomes, etc.  Then, we adopted allozymes and needed to learn some biochemistry, population biology, statistical genetics and some computer programming.  During the 1980s, when mitochondrial DNA entered the scene, we required students to take molecular biology courses and learn the chemistry and skills to conduct RFLP analyses and Sanger sequencing on slab gels.  Then came the 1990s revolution—PCR, dye-terminating chemistry, automated sequencing, and genotyping with microsatellites and other markers.  Now, we progress into the genomic era.  High-throughput sequencing and genotyping with thousands of multilocus SNPs are relatively inexpensive and commercially available to biologists with limited experience in genetics or molecular biology.  Sophisticated new computer programs to analyse and interpret these expanding datasets are available to researchers with limited statistical or theoretical expertise.  As biologists from various subdisciplines engage in molecular ecological studies, how do they critically evaluate this explosion of technology, theory and data?  Often, unfortunately, they do not; the temptation to simply "plug and play" is too great.  Researchers in our discipline will benefit by reading the invited review by Karl et al. (2012) in this issue of Molecular Ecology.  Based on their recent experiences as authors, reviewers and journal editors, they examine eight misconceptions commonly seen in the literature, heard in seminars or obtained in reviews of manuscripts.  Most of these problems arise from a lack of critical understanding of the diverse tools and characters used in molecular ecology. 

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