Eileen Roy-Zokan, Jason Byrd and Ginger Clark beside IFAS sign

From left to right: Dr. Eileen Roy-Zokan (FWC), Dr. Jason Byrd (UF) and Ginger Clark (FWC/UF).

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Forensics Laboratory recently marked the one-year anniversary of its collaboration with the University of Florida Maples Center for Forensic Medicine.

A year into the five-year collaborative agreement, the UF/FWC forensic lab has processed over 20 cases, according to a FWC press release. Most of those cases have involved the genetic profiling and gender determination of poached deer, genetic profiling of turkey and species identification, and morphological analyses of fish remains.

“Our division first teamed up with UF in 1996 to develop DNA assays used in deer poaching cases," the FWC's Gregg Eason said in a statement. "Making this long-standing relationship between FWC and the University of Florida an official partnership last year was very exciting.” 

In 2020, the FWC and UF entered a collaborative agreement to develop the FWC laboratory into a more robust, full-service wildlife forensics facility with access to analytical capabilities in the areas of DNA and molecular biology, entomology, botany, pathology, osteology and toxicology. The FWC said it plans to provide access to these forensic sciences services, as the unit expands, to outside agencies and states without wildlife forensics capabilities of their own

Eason said he has high hopes for the unit's future. 

“The FWC is confident this unit will provide our officers and investigators with timely forensic capabilities that will augment our criminal case preparations," he said. "We must do all we can to stay one step ahead of those who choose to steal Florida’s valued fish and wildlife resources.”

The UF project is managed by Dr. Jason Byrd and Ginger Clark, who each have more than 25 years of experience in applying forensic sciences to wildlife crime. 

“Both the FWC and the University of Florida are looking forward to the future possibilities of this new and expanding collaboration and we are hopeful it can be a model for wildlife agencies and universities throughout the United States,” said Byrd said in a statement. 

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