'Sherlock' tool identifies endangered fish

Scientists in California are identifying different types of Chinook salmon with a little help from Sherlock.

But not the Sherlock you might know.

This one stands for: Specific High-sensitivity Enzymatic Reporter Unlocking.

The technology helps scientists identify endangered fish by their specific genomic sequence so they can better monitor population numbers, pinpoint their habitats and improve conservations efforts.

Andrea Schreier is an adjunct associate professor at The university of California Davis.

"The reason I think this work is important is that to conserve species well, you have to be able to identify the species accurately and you have to know where the species is. And Sherlock is able to do both for you through different applications. If you have a species in hand, you can confirm its identity. If you don't have a species in hand and you're trying to detect DNA in the environment, you know, we can tell you if the species is there or not.’’

The process begins by taking swabs of mucus from the fish.

The swab collection is then added to a master mix that contains the Sherlock reaction components.

The reaction prompts a search for a specific genomic sequence that researchers are hoping to find.

Environmental program manager at California's department of water resources, Melinda Baerwald, explained that a major advantage of the technology is its speed.

For her it means no longer having to travel miles to a lab just to confirm the identity of a species and whether or not her work is impacting endangered or threatened fish.

"Something that's so cool about Sherlock is you don't need a geneticist anymore. You can do it yourself. An ecologist can do this. And that is super powerful, that you don't have to have a lab. You don't have to have a geneticist. Other people can do it. And so that's to me, one of the most powerful things about this, that other people, the power of genetics is now unlocked for other people to be able to use."

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