UMaine Machias animal DNA detective receives award from Maine Warden Service

MACHIAS, Maine — University of Maine at Machias associate research professor Gerard “Gerry” Zegers received the 2023 Maine Warden Service Merit Award during the agency’s annual awards banquet on Friday, April 26 in Augusta.

The award celebrates Zegers’ establishment of a wildlife DNA identification program in collaboration with the warden service. Through his eight years of teaching the Wildlife Forensics class at UMaine Machias, he has invited local game wardens to speak in his classes and assist in creating crime scene scenarios as hands-on learning opportunities for students. A wooden plaque that says Dr. Gerard Zegers "In recognition of your outstanding performance, dedication and commitment. It contains the Wardens Logo and the name of the award.

Zegers has assisted with numerous cases for the Maine Warden Service, including matching tooth DNA to what was found to be an illegally harvested moose. According to a nomination letter of support for Zegers to receive this year’s merit award, “Gerry tried breaking the teeth and grinding the teeth but was unable to extract enough DNA to properly test. He did some research and found that DNA had been extracted for human [anthropological studies] by soaking the teeth in a certain liquid solution.” Once Zegers obtained the proper items needed, this allowed him to extract the DNA in a concentration that could be tested. “He was able to match the DNA from the teeth to the illegal moose. This is likely the first time this process has been done in wildlife forensics,” according to the letter of support.

Please visit the UMaine Machias news site to learn more about UMaine Machias’ animal DNA Detective.

*Photos are courtesy of Joe McBrine