To identify the species of an unknown sample using its DNA sequence, we must have a database of reference sequences from known species for comparison. Research geneticists have access to public DNA sequence databases like Genbank, but forensic casework cannot depend entirely upon them, as public databases often lack adequate controls and curation. To fill the need for reliable sequence data for species identification, we collaborate with institutions like the University of Washington and the Southeastern Regional Taxonomic Center for morphological identification of organisms in our forensic voucher collection.
We archive and sequence these expertly identified finfish, sharks, sea turtles, marine mammals and invertebrates, and use the sequence data for internal casework databases. When possible, we also submit sequences to public DNA sequence databases, such as NCBI’s Genbank and/or the Barcode of Life Database (BOLD) for use by the research community.