A new grant from the Toshiba America Foundation will allow Upper School molecular biology students to use DNA barcodes to identify plant and animal species on the SFS campus.
The $12,300 grant will go towards the purchase of the necessary equipment and will expand the types of activities and investigations the students can perform. “Projects like this allow students to explore practical applications of molecular biology concepts and methods discussed in class. It will also provide us with unique opportunities to interact with the local scientific community,” said Tommie Hata, who secured the grant for his classroom.
According to Hata, DNA barcodes are short sequences within organisms’ DNA that can be used for taxonomic identification. The unique feature of these sequences is that they are similar enough across various species to be compared to each other but also are unique enough that each DNA sequence can be used to identify a single species. Therefore students will be able to identify plant and animal species even when all that is available is a small tissue sample.
Through these biotech and molecular biology methods, students will be able to establish a database of DNA barcodes for a variety of plants found on the Sidwell Friends campus. The database can be expanded in future academic years to include other types of organisms, such as insects and fungi.
“I hope this also raises awareness about biodiversity,” added Hata, “in a way that students become more familiar with the variation of plants they see on campus all the time.”
Dr. Daniel Nelson at the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research at the University of Maryland will provide scientific expertise and give the students an opportunity to work with local scientists. Hata is an affiliate scientist at the University of Maryland.
The Toshiba American Foundation, founded in 1990 with support from Toshiba Corporation and the Toshiba America Group Companies, is dedicated to helping classroom teachers make mathematics and science learning fun and successful for students in U.S. schools.