Melissa Lee

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Posts by Melissa Lee


DNA Barcoding Exposes Deregulation of Herbal Supplements

There is an increasing need for more Americans to improve their health and lifestyle. One growing trend that I see in my hometown of New York City is the building of local farms on rooftops and the increase of organic produce sections in the supermarkets. In an effort to protect our health some of us are choosing more natural and locally grown food over mass-produced, insecticide-ridden crops. And in the realm of medicine, many people are choosing more natural medicines or herbal supplements to support our health.  Many common herbal medicines used today are used for a variety of reasons, More >

Shark fins

The flavor of extinction in a bowl of soup

The most expensive bowl of soup I have ever had in my life was a $15 bowl of ramen in the NYC restaurant Ippudo. And this was no ordinary “ramen” you would eat at home as a cash-strapped college student. This was an authentic bowl nuanced with so many rich and hearty flavors of Japanese cuisine.

Little did I know that $15 soup was  considered “cheap” compared to other soups that sell for at least $100 a bowl. One such soup is shark fin soup, which is traditionally served in Chinese cuisine during  special occasions.  One is apt to eat this More >


DNA Barcoding Used to Detect Illegal Bushmeat at U.S. Airports

A major concern for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the association of zoonotic viruses with the importation of wildlife products. Diseases from zoonotic transmissions can spread globally and pose a threat to human health. DNA technology can be used to help identify the the types of wildlife imported and the pathogens that they carry, giving us an idea of potential health risks associated with wildlife  importation.

George Amato, the director of the American Museum of Natural History’s Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, worked with the CDC by using DNA barcoding to identify imported bushmeat at U.S. international More >


Man versus Machine

Man versus machine…which one is the winner?  This is definitely a question for the modern world, as people have competed with current technology, namely computers.

Are there ways the computer has out-shined the human mind? Perhaps.  But I think the better question is, can computers ever catch up to our incredible brains? I don’t think so.

I was reminded of this the other day when I read an article from “Nature News” regarding  an online game called, “Phylo”, created by computational biologists at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.   People who played this game were able to more accurately solve problems that computers  More >

Be careful what species you carry on your feet!

Have you ever considered that the one of the most diverse places on earth can be directly under your feet?

When we walk, our shoes pick up various seen and unseen organisms.  Many of us walking through a field or park may be stepping on and carrying seeds from various plants. Seeds blow in the wind and also creep into the crevices of our clothes and bags.  As carriers, we then transport them to new areas, making each of us essentially a seed planter. At first glance this seems like a nice job description.  However, the problem lies in the fact More >

The FDA uses DNA Barcoding in the Identification of Imported Fish

One job of the US Food and Drug Administration is to ensure that all imported seafood is safe to eat and properly labelled. Accurate seafood labels are necessary for the safety of all individuals who consume such products.  In 2007, toxic pufferfish were illegally imported into the United States and bypassed customary US inspection because it was mislabeled as “monkfish”.  Two individuals became seriously ill after ingesting the tetrodotoxin from the pufferfish they were cooking at home.

Not only is the mislabeling of fish considered a violation of Federal law, but it can also pose a serious public health risk. Simple More >

How many species exist on Earth?

How many species exist on Earth? Well, no one really knows exactly, but there are some reasonable estimates. One figure, estimated by the Census of Marine Life Scientists, is posited to be at 8.7 million based on taxonomic methodology.  Of this 8.7 million, at least 85% of the species on land and in sea still have yet to be identified and cataloged. It is amazing to think that we only know about 15% of the life found on Earth.  There remains much to be discovered.

Recently, researchers at the Smithsonian used the method of DNA barcoding to identify 168 crab species  More >

Got a shovel?

In the field of forensics, scientists can tell the story of how, when and where certain outdoor crimes occurred by analyzing the soil and its contents.  One of its contents includes DNA.  DNA from the victim or suspect can be recovered from the soil at a crime scene. In addition, DNA from other animals can be recovered in these same locations as animals slough off cells from their skin and waste.

According to a recent study in Molecular Ecology, scientists have shown that DNA fragments found in the soil can not only determine what species occupy a given area, but also More >