DNA Everywhere! (Or At Least From California to Haiti)

Safety is not something SOIL takes lightly. Haiti is battling the deadliest cholera epidemic in recent history, and diarrhea is the number one killer of children under five, so making sure that our waste treatment process kills off pathogens and results in safe compost is literally a matter of life and death.

There are many components to SOIL’s safety system, from training families in good hygiene and toilet maintenance practices, to implementing (and surpassing) the World Health Organization’s standards for composting human waste, each integral to preventing the spread of harmful bacteria. But to provide an additional measure of certainty, SOIL also puts all of our finished compost through a variety of lab tests. Some of that testing we’ve been able to do in our very own lab, but some of the more complex tests have to be sent out of country. Now thanks to our friends at DNA Everywhere of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, both SOIL offices will be equipped with new DNA extraction kits, allowing us to perform the initial phase of DNA analysis of our compost right here in Haiti!

To ensure that the SOIL team has a thorough understanding of the whole process, from extraction to analysis, DNA Everywhere brought our Port-au-Prince Sanitation Coordinator, Jimmy Louis, to their lab for a two-week intensive training in DNA analysis. A biology buff, Jimmy relished the opportunity to roll up his sleeves in one of the world’s foremost labs (fun fact: it’s produced 13 Nobel prize winners!) in the name of helping SOIL’s work in Haiti.

Jimmy prepares compost samples in the DNA Everywhere lab.

SOIL Sanitation Coordinator, Jimmy Louis, prepares compost samples in the DNA Everywhere lab.

“I went to California in the context of reinforcing my knowledge capacity on the DNA lab equipment that SOIL wants to use in our two offices, and to work in a lab to learn more about the microbial DNA in SOIL’s compost. I’ll use this knowledge to help SOIL advance in the future and will share it with other people on the SOIL team. SOIL is an organization that believes that it can improve the work that we are doing in Haiti by reinforcing the skills and knowledge of its employees and sharing with all others concerned.”

We’re excited for Jimmy to get our labs in Haiti up to speed with his new knowledge, which will not only make a new level of sophisticated science available to us locally, it will also save SOIL time and money in our safety efforts.  Thanks DNA Everywhere!


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