Daniel Janzen, a renowned tropical ecologist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is a major proponent of this theoretical device. Janzen has been involved in the 'Consortium for the Barcode of Life’ project, which includes members such as the Natural History Museum in London, the Smithsonian in the US, the University of Guelph in Canada, Rockefeller University in New York, and a host of other institutions. The goal of this research consortium is to use a single DNA sequence, (cytochrome oxidase I, a mitochondrial gene), to essentially tag, or “barcorde” every species on earth. Having one gene with which to identify all biodiversity is a lofty task that will require many skilled technicians in functioning genetic labs, as well as taxonomic experts to assign appropriate names and voucher specimens to all of these sequences. Still Janzen suggests that with the use of the proposed ‘gene chip’ the process could be conducted by a “six-year kid walking down the street.”
Progress has already been made in the construction and usage of this 'theoretical' device. Mesa Tech International has developed the ‘DNA dipstick,’ a hand-held, battery-powered, disposable device that can identify nucleic acid sequence-level data within hours. This device has been used to identify microbial pathogens in agricultural crops and animals and thus improve human health. DNA microarrays have also been used in the Fish&Chips project which hopes to identify and categorize marine biodiversity. This project uses a ‘bio-chip’ made of glass that contains oligionucleotides fixed to the chips’ surface, which acts as a probe to bind complementary target DNA sequences by hybridization. This group also has a Phytoplankton Chip and Invertebrate Chip. With such technological developments in recent years, the quick identification of specimens in the field, as proposed by the Costa Rican researcher some years ago, suggests that this goal is not so far-fetched. DNA barcoding and the use of gene-chips will undoubtedly herald science into a new era, as we begin to database and identify genes of all of earth’s species.