Museum epigenetics: Charting the future by unlocking the past

A graphic in orange and blue showing two people shaking hands, with text boxes describing how to use museum specimens for epigneomic research.

Collaborative Solutions to the Challenges Impeding Museum Epigenomics.

If, as the saying goes, history repeats itself, we can use an understanding of the past to make better decisions in the future. But, tracking change in biological systems is hard because animals don’t write down their history – or do they?

Environomics FSP researchers, Clare Holleley, Erin Hahn, Alicia Grealy and Marina Alexander have described the potential of museum specimens to yield information on which genes were turned on and off in the past to enable animals to respond to environmental change.

Museum specimens already provide fascinating and useful information on the DNA blueprints of life, but “epigenetic” changes – which reflect actual gene activity – has proven a much harder nut to crack.

In their recently published paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Clare and her team review the challenges and opportunities that museum epigenomics offers environmental scientists and managers wishing to better predict responses to our rapidly changing environment.