Mar. 9, 2001 COLLEGE STATION - In a facility believed to be the first of its kind, a mobile laboratory used to collect DNA material from endangered species is now in operation at Texas A&M University.
The 28-foot long moving facility, called the Mobile Reproductive Genetics Lab, is being used to gather genetic materials from animals that could ultimately face extinction. If that happens, the DNA could be used to re-introduce the species in the future, says Dr. Duane Kraemer, director of the facility and a researcher in the College of Veterinary Medicine.
"This new lab is a dream we've had for about 15 years," Kraemer says of the new facility. "With it, we are able to go directly to the animal's environment. It's a state-of-the-art lab that can go just about anywhere there's a road."
The lab cost $120,000 and was funded by a matching grant from the Trans Pecos Desert Bighorn Sheep Restoration Society, which is led by Clayton Williams Jr., a Texas A&M alumnus and prominent West Texas businessman. Fittingly, the first field trip for the new lab was to collect DNA from bighorn sheep in the Trans Pecos area of West Texas.
Bighorn sheep, which once numbered in the thousands, are now a threatened species in Texas. The lab was built by the Dodgen Industries of Humboldt, Iowa, which makes mobile medical and dental facilities. "It's like no other we've made," says Bill Ryan, director of the veterinary division of Dodgen. "It's bigger than most and it's got the very best equipment. "It's exciting to think of what Texas A&M will be able to accomplish with this lab. It's really a complete genetic lab on wheels."
The facility is equipped with a surgery room, examining room, recovery area and contains the latest reproductive biotechnology medical equipment, Kraemer said. "As far as we know, this is the first facility of this kind ever built," Kraemer says. "The list of animals facing extinction grows every day. We hope the work we can do in this lab will help preserve those species for future generations to enjoy."
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