Like the popular TV crime show, Jim Banks and Jeff Rodzen form a kind of wildlife CSI team, cracking cases in the California Department of Fish and Game forensics laboratory outside Sacramento. But their subjects are animals, not humans, reports the Los Angeles Times. In 1995, the lab became one of the first state wildlife facilities in the country to use DNA evidence to positively identify wild animals that attack humans and livestock, and to prosecute poachers.
In recent years, Banks, a wildlife forensics specialist, and Rodzen, a geneticist, have used DNA to track illegally harvested bear gallbladders and Sacramento River sturgeon caviar thieves. Having built a comprehensive DNA file on the state’s deer population, their next project is to genetically map depleted red abalone populations. In animal-attack cases, their work exonerates animals nearly as often as it convicts them.