Search and Discovery Network

The group specialises in processes involved in the search for and discovery of human and/or animal remains/traces using technology including drones, robots and sensors, bioscience and policing research to combat illegal wildlife trade or illegal trade of food and other commodities and to access dangerous sites in natural and human disasters, terrorist incidents or covert operations.

Research Leads: Professor Stefano Mariani and Dr Fred Bezombes

Case study

‘Fingerprinting’ illegal species in global trade

Adopting crime scene type methods paid off in the policing of illegal fishing for a team led by Professor Stefano Mariani. The team, which specialises in eDNA and metabarcoding, ‘swept’ seven processing plants in Java, Indonesia – the world’s biggest shark landing nation and from the dust and traces identified DNA from 61 shark and ray taxa, more than half of which could not be recovered from individual tissue samples collected from the same sites. More than 80% were species listed as outlawed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. “Effectively we uncovered evidence of twice as many species in a fraction of the time and effort it would take to sample fish in the factory,” said Mariani.

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