Wednesday, March 19, 2014

DNA Barcoding in High Schools

Still not convinced that DNA Barcoding is perfect for school education?
Here are some recent examples demonstrating the opposite:

At the Connecticut Science & Engineering Fair last week at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, students from several Greenwich schools garnered dozens of awards after presenting their research. The event showcased the scientific and engineering work of about 700 students from approximately 130 schools. Here are three projects that were honored:

Kylinn Askew and Emma Novick, both 11th grade. Project: Truly Vegetarian? Using DNA barcoding to detect possible contamination of vegetarian products.

Sabrina Carrozzi, Alexa Granser and Grace McKenney, all 11th grade. Project: Nice to Meat You: Using DNA barcoding to detect mislabeling in the meat industry.

Emily Sabia and Claren Hesburgh, both 11th grade. Project: Using DNA barcoding to detect the potential contamination of herbal products.

Or take this news bit from Hawaii:
Students of a biotechnology class at Hawaii Preparatory Academy are tasked with extraction, amplification, sequencing and identification of DNA Barcodes of the barred sand bass (Paralabrax nebulifer).

Students at High Point Regional High School participated in the Barcoding Life’s Matrix program (so did the students from Hawaii) that is run by our friends at the Coastal Marine Biolabs in Ventura, California. Have a look at the video:

Recently I have been starting to work with grade 11 co-op students that are interested in coding. They are well versed in Java and are currently developing tools that support the analysis and manipulation of data retrieved from BOLD. We are focusing on BIN information first with the goal to create small publicly available routines that help to extract information important for alpha- and beta-diversity studies. I believe we are the first in using a bioinformatics approach to DNA Barcoding in school education. 

So far educators have been generating DNA Barcodes as workflows are simple enough that students can gain exposure to all aspects of the analytical chain from specimen collection to data interpretation. This goes one step further and involves them in data manipulation and analysis. There is an increasing need for coding capabilities and a couple of initiatives try to push this into schools as it is seldom taught as part of a curriculum. Here a video from the most prominent initiative

I will keep you posted on our progress as the students are very eager to show what they've accomplished and following open source policy everything will be available for everyone (including Java code). 

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