May 16, 2021
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Forensics Laboratory recently marked the one-year anniversary of its collaboration with the University of Florida Maples Center for Forensic Medicine. The FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement has expanded its forensic science component with the ambition of becoming nationally recognized as a premier wildlife forensic sciences program.
In 2020, the FWC entered a collaborative agreement with UF and together they are developing the laboratory into a leading full-service wildlife forensics facility with access to analytical capabilities in the areas of DNA and molecular biology, entomology, botany, pathology, osteology, and toxicology. The FWC plans to provide access to these forensic sciences services, as the unit expands, to outside agencies and states without wildlife forensics capabilities of their own.
“Our division first teamed up with UF in 1996 to develop DNA assays used in deer poaching cases. Making this long-standing relationship between FWC and the University of Florida an official partnership last year was very exciting,” said Lt. Col. Gregg Eason, FWC Division of Law Enforcement. “The FWC is confident this unit will provide our officers and investigators with timely forensic capabilities that will augment our criminal case preparations. We must do all we can to stay one step ahead of those who choose to steal Florida’s valued fish and wildlife resources.”
A year into this collaboration, the UF/FWC forensic lab has already processed over 20 cases. Most have involved the genetic profiling and gender determination of poached deer, genetic profiling of turkey and species identification, and morphological analyses of fish remains.
“Both the FWC and the University of Florida are looking forward to the future possibilities of this new and expanding collaboration and we are hopeful it can be a model for wildlife agencies and universities throughout the United States,” said Associate Director Jason H. Byrd, Ph.D., Maples Center for Forensic Medicine.
The UF project is managed by Jason Byrd, Ph.D., and Ginger Clark, M.S.; each with more than 25 years of experience in the application of forensic sciences to wildlife crime. Newest to the team is Eileen Roy-Zokan, Ph.D., who began as a research scientist with FWC in April 2020. For more information regarding the program, visit: maples-center.ufl.edu/2021/01/08/fwc-maples-center-partnership-for-wildlife-forensic-sciences.