Funds from this grant support a team at the Dolan DNA Learning Center (DNALC) of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to conduct a pilot program-called DNA Barcode New York City (DNAbcNYC)-to bring DNA barcoding to New York City high school students through DNALC's facility in East Harlem. The DNALC-started in 1988-is the world's first science center devoted entirely to genetics education. The DNAbcNYC team plans a pilot program to get New York City high school students-especially those underrepresented in science-to use DNA barcoding to explore their urban environment. They plan to organize student work around several key campaigns that encourage a coordinated effort to sample the biodiversity of urban ecosystems around the city, including city parks and gardens, neighborhood markets, and detecting food fraud. The project includes support for teacher training in DNA barcoding, student teams, a dedicated DNAbcNYC micro-site, kits and supplies, assistance for in-school DNA barcoding "footlocker kits," and a new Urban Barcode Competition.
Using methods established by DNALC, the students will collect samples, extract DNA, and then amplify it using the appropriate primers (CO1 for animals, rbcL for plants). The amplified DNA will be shipped to a vetted sequencing lab, where the barcode sequence will be determined. The sequences will be uploaded to a new dedicated DNAbcNYC micro-site where the sequence data can be accessed and analyzed. The micro-site will support all phases of the DNAbcNYC project. The site will include video instructions, online lab notebook, downloadable lab protocols, teacher preparation, multimedia resources, a barcode sequence database, and a suite of simplified bioinformatics tools. Novel sequences will be submitted to the Barcode of Life database. The teachers and students will be invited to participate in the Urban Barcode Competition. The top three teams will be awarded cash prizes. In addition, the top three projects will be subjects of videos posted on DNAbcNYC's micro-site as well as on Cablevision's MSG Varsity Channel. The DNAbcNYC expects to reach at least 300 students in this pilot, assuming each trained teacher engages one team of three students. The project represents a unique opportunity to bring the excitement of scientific discovery through DNA barcoding to New York City high school students.