MRI: Acquisition of a next-generation sequencing instrument for interdisciplinary research in the NC Museum of Natural Sciences

  • Horvath-roth, Juliann J. (PI)
  • Urban, Julie Marie (CoPI)
  • Stuart, Bryan B.L. (CoPI)
  • Raley, Morgan M.E. (CoPI)
  • Williams-devane, Clarlynda C.R. (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project describes the acquisition of a next-generation sequencing instrument (Illumina MiSeq) to expand the research and outreach capabilities of researchers in the new wing of the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences (NCSM), the Nature Research Center (NRC). DNA sequencing technologies have advanced rapidly in the last decade, and this MiSeq instrument allows researchers to obtain many DNA sequences simultaneously. This MiSeq instrument will facilitate the two-fold mission of the NRC?s Genomics & Microbiology Laboratory (G&M Lab) to: 1) conduct primary research in the natural sciences that serves to discover and document biological diversity, and 2) bring research scientists and their work into the public eye, to better prepare science educators and students, and inspire a new generation of scientists. This instrument will serve the recently expanded user community of museum and visiting researchers studying genomics, systematics, biodiversity, conservation, ecology and evolution of amphibians, reptiles, insects, primates, and bacteria in North Carolina and across the world. This research and inclusive training opportunities will engage faculty, museum curators and visiting scientists as well as postdocs and students at nearby universities such as North Carolina Central University, which as an historically black college/university serving a large minority community. The MiSeq instrument will provide a means for Museum visitors and students to experience next-generation sequencing technology affecting their daily lives.

This instrument will be used by NSF and NIH-funded investigators, and other researchers to increase the scope and depth of current projects, and will allow for new genetic dimensions to be added to ongoing projects. Furthermore, this instrument will provide researchers and students with hands-on experience with state-of-the-art DNA sequencing, bioinformatic analysis and data interpretation. Research projects using the MiSeq include 1) using primate genomics to link genotype to phenotype through gene expression analyses and skin microbiome studies, 2) investigating planthopper relationships and their multiple endosymbionts, 3) conducting phylogenomic studies of threatened Asian amphibians, and 4) conservation genetics of hatchery augmented fishes. Techniques include sequencing the 16S ribosomal RNA region from microbes on human and non-human primate skin, conducting gene expression analysis from animal blood and tissue, sequencing whole bacterial genomes, conducting RADseq for population level analyses, and sequencing targeted genetic loci. These research and training activities will foster synergistic activities in research, training and education among diverse areas of scientific study in the NCSM. Additionally, many of the projects using this DNA sequencing instrument have Citizen Science components where the public participates in the acquisition and/or analysis of data. Offering cutting-edge research opportunities made possible using state-of-the-art instrumentation such as this sequencing instrument is critical to broadening diversity and competitiveness in the natural sciences in North Carolina and the nation.

Effective start/end date9/1/148/31/18


  • National Science Foundation: $190,708.00


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