Molecular NYC: A Study of Biodiversity in Urban Environments

Fellow:  Stephen Harris   Teacher:  Marissa Bellino

Course Purpose

This course aims to introduce students to the field and laboratory methods needed to identify animals and plants based on small fragments of DNA. Students will research, design and implement a DNA barcoding project to identify and catalog the biodiversity of New York City.

Course Goals

Course Description

This Module was designed for a multi-year research program at the High School for Environmental Studies. It emphasizes inquiry, field and lab data collection, writing, researching and presentation skills before moving into teaching advanced molecular biology techniques. DNA barcoding is a new and efficient way of identifying animals and plants based on small fragments of DNA. Students will work in small groups to identify a plant or invertebrate species of interest. They will collect samples from all over New York City, extract the DNA from their samples, develop novel polymerase chain reaction (PCR) protocols to amplify the specific barcode region for their organism, send samples out for sequencing, perform comparative analysis using bioinformatics tools, and build a website to publicize their work. Throughout this process, students will develop a range of skills from traditional morphology identification to advanced molecular techniques while documenting biodiversity and answering ecological questions in their city.

This course is designed as a foundation for a stand alone science research course for secondary science classrooms. It is part of a multi year Authentic Research Module.

Unit Plans and Course Outline