OH BROTHER – TIGER DNA HELPS RESEARCH – May, 2003

Health Science graduate, Claire Bellis, has taken DNA samples from the big cats at Dreamworld’s Tiger Island for her Honours research into forensic animal species identification. The 24-year-old did her ground-breaking study at the university’s Genomics Research Centre under Professor Lyn Griffiths’ supervision. “During my final year I completed a subject called DNA Diagnostics and became hooked on the idea of studying forensics with a genetic twist,” Ms Bellis said. The Gold Coast student tested blood samples from ten animal species including rats, horses, and four of Dreamworld’s tigers. “The aim of my Honours research was to detect the genetic differences between animal species to identify its origin,” Ms Bellis said. This technique could prove beneficial for forensic scientists to determine the species of any ‘non-human’ DNA found at a crime scene. Ms Bellis completed her study in 2000 and will soon see her findings published in the distinguished forensics journal, Forensic Science International. “I would feel extremely privileged if my research was to one day be incorporated as a technique to help save endangered species such as these tigers,” Ms Bellis said. Now in her eighth year of study, Ms Bellis’ latest research project recently took her to Cambridge where she attended a prestigious statistical genetics course. “My current PhD studies include investigating an isolated Norfolk Island population for mapping out the genes that cause high blood pressure,” Ms Bellis said. The former student ambassador hopes to utilise the knowledge and practical experience gained at the university to establish herself as an independent scientific researcher.

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