Decoding Our Pets

Inquiry-Based Genetics for the 21 Century

The Decoding Our Pets project provides a unique opportunity for students to use biotechnology to discover how their dogs’ genetic code relates to its physical and behavioral traits—like coat length or increased food drive. The project trains students and teachers how to analyze the genetic code in pure- and mixed-breed dogs; and provides teaching materials, supplies and mobile lab kits for classroom genetics labs in the greater Portland, ME area.

Students purify DNA from a dog’s cheek cells, amplify a target gene using polymerase chain reaction, and analyze DNA products with electrophoresis, sequencing and bioinformatics. Using these techniques, students determine a dog’s genotype and compare it to its phenotype to discover the mode of inheritance of traits. Participants develop new lab skills, expand their understanding of genetics concepts, and engage in the scientific practices articulated in the Next Generation Science Standards. Explore the Pet Genetics Gallery.

Using their new knowledge and skills, students from Deering and Yarmouth High Schools began independent research projects studying dog genes and presented their findings in the 2019 Maine State Science Fair at Bowdoin College.

“We were jazzed about talking to really smart judges—and they were so interested in our results!” noted one student who entered the science fair and received a college scholarship award.

This program is supported in part by grants and equipment donations from IDEXX Laboratories (Westbrook, ME), Thermo-Fisher Scientific (Waltham, MA), New England BioLabs (Ipswich, MA), BioRad (Hercules, CA) and GSL Biotech (Chicago, IL). Contact to learn how you can get involved!