The Maine Barcode of Life (MBOL) project, launched in 2013, is a joint effort by Maine high schools, colleges, and iXplore to assess the biodiversity and distribution of Maine’s marine and land-based organisms and to build a genetic library of Maine species – past and present. Explore barcoding highlights from high school classrooms and the iXplore Summer Program.
Students and teachers conduct scientific research using DNA barcoding, a combination of biotechnology & bioinformatics, to identify and classify any plant or animal or investigate food fraud by comparing the DNA sequence of one universal gene. Students extract DNA from very small samples of living, dead, or processed material. They apply molecular biology, ecology, and evolution concepts and develop lab skills using centrifugation, electrophoresis, and polymerase chain reaction. Students use computational biology and bioinformatics to analyze DNA sequences with tools embedded in the BOLD-Student Data Portal website (BOLD-SDP video.). Results are verified and published in the BOLD-Systems data base, which stores genetic data from more than 200,000 plant and animal species from around the globe.
“A DNA barcode is a unique pattern of DNA sequence that identifies each living thing.” – The DNA Learning Center. One Maine high school student used DNA barcoding and revealed fresh water white bass served in a restaurant was not striped sea bass as advertised. Other students have shown tea bags fail to list all of the ingredients. DNA Barcoding is a model for high tech student inquiry, offers a platform for using scientific practices, and may lead to scientific publication and identification of new species of organisms!
How do students and teachers get involved? High school students and teachers can contribute to the MBOL project by participating in the iXplore STEM Summer Program at UNE. After a teacher has received training, they can gain access to a DNA Barcoding Footlocker for use in their classroom during the school year. The foot locker contains biotechnology equipment and supplies needed to complete projects and is made possible by the Maine Community Foundation Rines-Thompson Fund and IDEXX Laboratories.
The University of New England invites Maine classrooms to visit the Marine Science Center and collect marine specimens for student DNA barcoding research. Classrooms can also explore UNE’s marine biology teaching and research labs. Watch this video of students seine fishing at Freddie’s Beach on campus at UNE.