How Bill Detrich’s foresight led to the DNA sequencing of a rare icefish species

The year was 2004. William Detrich was leading a research cruise to study fish that live on the frigid cusp of Antarctic waters.

On that scientific expedition, Detrich, a professor of marine and environmental sciences at Northeastern, did something in anticipation of future science. Each time Detrich’s international team of scientists caught a fish, they would draw a sample of blood, purify the blood cells, and extract the DNA. That genetic material would then be preserved in a solution to be studied at a later date.

Just how much later that DNA would be sequenced, Detrich didn’t know. But the human genome had been sequenced a year earlier, and the threat of climate change was looming over ocean researchers, prompting them to scramble to study the creatures on the fringe before those species blinked out of existence.

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Marine and Environmental Sciences