Museum Collections and Research

Using Genomic Data

In the last two activities, you attempted to identify differences in two lichen specimens using only your eyes. Was that an easy tasks? Based on your experience, hypothesize why it might be useful to utilize genomics when studying evolution.

To help with the task of parsing out species that may look very similar to one another, or to verify and corroborate species determinations made on morphological or structural grounds, researchers use a research tool called Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST).

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) provides this tool for aligning query sequences against those present in a selected target database.

This makes it possible for researchers to compare a genome of a newly sequenced specimen against a database of already identified and sequenced organisms, allowing scientists identify to which species their new specimen of interest might belong.

To learn more about BLAST and how to conduct your own alignments, take a look at Field Museum Bioinformatics Director Felix Grewe's course covering Bioinformatics.