Robert Lowery, PhD, an associate professor of Biology at Indian River State College is investigating the DNA that remains in the soil of the Old Vero Ice Age Site.
Although the great majority of the DNA in any soil sample is of bacterial and fungal origin, decomposed plant and animal materials are known to leave behind fragmented DNA. These fragments can either remain loose in the soil itself or are picked up by bacteria and incorporated into their own DNA. In both cases, this plant and animal DNA, if sequenced, can reveal what species was the source of that DNA.
Dr. Lowery and student investigators at IRSC are endeavoring to extract this environmental DNA, (eDNA) from multiple areas at the Old Vero site that look to have had animal material deposition. Using the Ion Torrent Sequencer at the Stem Center in Port St. Lucie West [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJSEXEL4RXU ] their aim is to sequence DNA extracts from these soil samples and compare the sequences to known bacterial, fungal, plant, and animal DNA provided by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) to clarify what plants and animals may have occupied the Vero site.
Robert Lowery holds a Masters and PhD in Biology
from Florida International University, where he studied human genetic diversity and archaic hominin genetics. He has published several human phylogenetic studies, particularly on the peopling of the Southern Caucasus. His bioinformatic research has focused on characterizing the genetic similarity and potential gene flow between anatomically modern humans and archaic hominins, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans.