Dr Judith Smith
School of Natural Sciences
Judith has a broad background in teaching and research focussing on molecular genetics. Her interests are in how genetic variation influences function and how we can utilise this variation for individual identification and to understand the relationships within and between populations. Judith has worked on a wide range of projects including investigations into parasitism and reproductive success, genetic variation and production traits, the genetic control of nematode development, environmental DNA analysis and insect molecular genetics.
Judith contributes to teaching across all years including mendelian genetics, molecular biology and forensic DNA profiling at undergraduate level as well as supervising both literature and lab-based undergraduate projects. Together with the other members of the Forensic Genetics Team she contributes to our Masters level programme in DNA Profiling, as well as supervising post-graduate research projects (MSc and PhD).
Judith graduated in Biological Sciences from Warwick University before undertaking a PhD at the University of Cambridge. Her PhD research investigated the impact of parasitism and reproductive success on the population genetics of Soay sheep on the remote Scottish islands of St Kilda. Since then she has carried out post-doctoral research on genetic variation in production traits in cattle (Roslin Institute, Edinburgh), population genetics and the genetic control of nematode development (University of Glasgow) and insect molecular genetics (Lancaster University). Judith joined UCLan in 2006 as a lecturer in Forensic Genetics and focusses on the application of genetic analysis and molecular biology in Forensic Science and DNA profiling with a particular interest in the genetic control of phenotype, Forensic entomology, Environmental DNA analysis and Wildlife Forensics.
- Ph. D. “Polymorphism Parasites and Fitness in Soay Sheep”, University of Cambridge, 1996
- BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, 1990
- Forensic genetics
- Forensic entomology
- Molecular ecology
- Member of the InternationalSociety for Forensic Genetics
- Member of the Royal Entomological Society
- Member of the British Ecological Society
- Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
Current research interests include forensic genetics, molecular ecology and forensic entomology. In particular the genetic control of insect development and the application of molecular markers for aging and species identification which could be important tools when using insect evidence to determine time since death. This requires developing genetic markers to address questions of the abundance, geographical distribution and population biology of forensically important insects in the UK (in particular blowflies (Calliphoridae). Other interests include the analysis of trace evidence, the development and validation of molecular markers for wildlife forensics and conservation genetics. Ongoing projects involve investigating genetic variation in ancient sheep, genetic characterisation of invasive crop pests, environmental DNA analysis for the monitoring of protected or invasive species and the identification of the genetic tools for phenotype prediction.
- Ancient Sheep - Sheep (Ovis aries) were one of the earliest animals domesticated by man and are most likely descended from the wild mouflon of Europe and Asia (Ovis orientalis) around 10,000 years ago. Molecular analysis of wild and domestic sheep supports multiple domestication events and has identified a number of maternal lineages. However there are very few studies looking at ancient DNA itself, this project aims to analyse ancient (Neolithic/Bronze Age/Iron Age/Roman) samples. We aim to analyse mitochondrial DNA sequences to compare domesticated and wild sheep to determine if there are any ancient lineages within population which may then give an insight into the early domestication of sheep.
- Blowfly genomics - Blowflies are insects of wide importance in ecology (as vital recyclers of detritus), veterinary science (as causes of infection and disease in livestock) and forensic science (as indicators of time since death). Understanding the ecology of these insects, on which many assumptions are based, requires the development of genetic tools for species identification, population genetic studies and gene mapping. There are limited publicly available genetic resources and this project aims to identify new microsatellite markers to assess levels of variation and genetic structure in UK blowfly species.
- Environmental DNA analysis - eDNA techniques involve species detection through trace biological material from the environment. This is particularly applicable for monitoring species that are under threat due to habitat destruction, detecting competition from invasive species, and emerging infectious diseases. In addition the presence or absence of protected species is a key legal issue that relies on accurate species detection. This project proposes the development and validation of eDNA assays providing a novel, non-destructive method to identify the presence, absence and relative abundance of species of interest from pond water or sediment samples.
- Molecular Phenotyping - Identification of the underlying genetic basis for a number of external visible characteristics (EVCs) leads to the possibility of generating a genetic e-fit. This has the potential to provide useful intelligence when biological evidence fails to identify an individual through DNA profiling. To date there has been success with predicting hair, eye and skin colour but there are other characteristics that we know are genetically controlled (although may be influenced by environmental factors) but the underlying genetic basis has yet to be fully explored (e.g. hair morphology, earlobe attachment, handedness, freckles and cleft chin). This project aims to explore variation within candidate genes for these characteristics.
- Texas Division of the International Association of Identification Educational Conference, Austin, Texas (2019)
- Taphos-Nomos, Preston, UK (2018)
- The Society for Wildlife Forensic Science (SWFS) Conference, Edinburgh, UK (2017)
- International Society for Forensic Genetics, Krakow (2015).
- European Association of Forensic Entomology, Huddersfield, UK (2015).
- European Congress of Entomology, York, UK (2014) SMITH J.A and Godfrey H. “A multi-gene approach to species identification of forensically important blowflies” (Poster).
- International Society for Forensic Genetics, Melbourne, Australia (2013) SMITH J.A and Godfrey H. “A multi-gene approach to species identification of forensically important blowflies” (Poster).
- Wildlife Crime and Conservation, Chester. UK (2012).
- International Society for Forensic Genetics, Vienna, Austria (2011) SMITH J.A and Godfrey H. “A SNaPshot assay for the identification of forensically important blowflies” (Poster).
- International Congress of Entomology, Durban, South Africa (2008) SMITH J.A. “Genetic identification of forensically important flies” (Oral presentation).
- International Society for Forensic Genetics, Copenhagen, Denmark (2007) SMITH J.A and Baker N C. “Molecular genetic identification of forensically important flies in the UK” (Poster).