Unauthorized Hair Samples Submitted for Analysis

GAO-02-488R: Published: Mar 6, 2002. Publicly Released: Mar 6, 2002.

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Donald G. Fulwider
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The National Interagency Canada Lynx Survey (Protocol) was designed to determine the presence of Canada lynx through deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) analysis of hair samples recovered from scratch pads in forests in the northern United States. Beginning in January 2002, GAO investigated the submission of unauthorized samples to the University of Montana's laboratory as part of the National Survey and investigated whether the biologists involved had communications about their submissions. GAO found were four instances in which unauthorized hair samples, not obtained from the Wenatchee and Gifford Pinchot National Forests, were submitted for DNA testing as part of the National Survey for those forests. These included one submission on bobcat hair in 1999, and three submissions of lynx hair in September and October 2000. The biologists maintain that they submitted these samples to test the accuracy of the work done by the laboratory, although they knew that the Protocol for the National Survey did not provide for such action. They also said that they did not have the authority to make these submissions and that they were aware that they had alternatives for testing the laboratory other than submitting samples as part of the survey. GAO summarized this report in testimony before Congress, see GAO-02-496T.

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