DNA Detectives

Fellow:  Samuel Crane

Course Purpose:  

The objective is to learn about the nature of DNA and genetic variation and to deepen students’ appreciation of biodiversity. The activities also provide opportunities for the students to develop their reading and writing skills, to reinforce their knowledge of genetics, and to read and analyze primary scientific literature. 

Course Description:

Forensic science plays an important role in efforts to conserve and protect wildlife. A wildlife forensic lab acts much like a police lab, except the victim is an animal. In this course, students will use modern techniques of molecular genetics to solve a wildlife forensics mystery— the identification of fish species from caviar to determine if the eggs came from a protected endangered species. Species identification from only the shape and appearance of fish eggs is difficult and so students will learn how to identify a species using its DNA. The course covers foundational topics in genetics and involves intensive reading and writing exercises. Students will analyze original scientific data, read primary scientific literature, and write a report in the style of a journal publication.

Course Outline:

Unit 1: Genetics

Unit 2: DNA Barcoding

  • Genetic Uniqueness: Barcodes
  • Concept mapping
  • Article Jigsaw: Expert Reading
  • Article Jigsaw: Regroup
  • Hypothesis generation

Unit 3: DNA Detectives

  • Lecture & Discussion
  • Visit Working Molecular Lab
  • Case Study
  • Sequence Scramble
  • Species Identification: Mystery Meats, Trees
  • Species Identification: Mystery Meats, Barcode
  • Species Identification: Whales
  • Tree-based Diagnosis
  • DNA Barcode Diagnosis
  • Reports