"In the case of exotic plant diseases, DNA information may be used, as it is in criminal forensics, to identify possible culprits and to understand how they were introduced," said Garbelotto. "This provides governments with pivotal information needed to avoid repeated introductions of pathogens."
Garbelotto is working with Italian mycologist Giovanni Robich and Luca Mizzan, curator of Marine Biology at the Venice Museum of Natural History, to sort through the samples in the museum, which are being sent to Garbelotto's lab at UC Berkeley for DNA sequencing and analysis.
The Venice Natural History Museum is part of the Musei Civici Veneziani, a network of 11 museums in Venice. It is housed in the Fontego dei Turchi, a Byzantine-style palace on the Grand Canal that dates back to the 12th century. Before it was established as a museum in 1923, it had served as a trading depot for Turkish merchants.
"Often museums are seen as places where people just go and see things," said Garbelotto, who is doing this work during a sabbatical leave from UC Berkeley. "This shows that museums are actually involved in cutting-edge research. Providing a database of this scope is pretty novel."
Museum curator Mizzan said the museum's vast collection of fungi got a kick start when the Venice Society of Mycology formed in the late 1980s to monitor the mycological flora in the Lagoon of Venice and surrounding areas. The collected samples represented over 1,200 species of fungi and formed the foundation of the museum's present collection.
Garbelotto noted that the relatively young age of the samples has been critical to obtaining good quality tissue for DNA analysis. The samples come from throughout Europe, with a significant number rep
Source:University of California - Berkeley