ITP Blog

Citizen Science - Week 10

November 08, 2018

“For ecologists,” Kress says, “DNA barcoding is really opening up a whole different way of tracking things in habitats where we couldn’t track them before.”

The promised benefits of big data are applicable to the ecological and conservation communities according to the Smithsonian’s article on DNA barcoding. I support using Hebert’s DNA barcoding process because providing scientists with larger datasets and clearer information allow us to make more informed decisions (such as clearer indications on a species endangered status or how to design better conservation areas based on barcoded diets).

But could DNA barcoding eventually reach a level in which it could also identify organisms on an individual level as well? I hope to ask today’s class guest speaker, Sophie Zaaijer, if the science could allow for this possibility. This could provide more conservation tools for ecologists, but also human tracking tools. There’s a power — and danger — in being able to track humans. Business and governments can learn more about their customer/citizens’ behaviors and preferences — similar to ecologists tracking African savannah animals — usually at the cost of some civil liberities and individual privacy. Tracking people using DNA barcoding could also have interesting repercussions for identify theives — they may have to mutate their DNA to spoof someone else’s or register as unknowable.

Adrian Bautista

NYU ITP documentation blog.
Words are my own.