This June, four Sachem High School North students attended the annual Barcode Long Island Symposium led by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s DNA Learning Center, in collaboration with Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Laboratory and the American Museum of Natural History.
Barcode Long Island uses DNA barcoding to explore, document and track biodiversity on and around Long Island through experiments led by student research teams. Kaya Manolt, Caitlin Tucker and Madison Tutone developed a research project titled “The effect of vegetated buffer zones on aquatic biodiversity,” comparing both water quality and presence of indicator species at two local ponds. Nistha Boghra researched “The biodiversity of a restored estuary” by sampling water quality and organisms at Sunken Meadow State Park. As part of the symposium, each student presented a poster displaying their research and interacted with peers, educators and world-renowned scientists. Among the notable guests was Dr. James Watson, famous Nobel Prize laureate, molecular biologist, geneticist and zoologist, best known for being a co-discoverer of the structure of DNA in 1953.
To begin their rigorous research, the students first dedicated countless hours to refine the design of their projects before performing the procedures of professional scientists. To move forward with their research, the student scientists needed to meet the strict guidelines set by Barcode Long Island and receive approval from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s DNA Learning Center staff scientists.
The students collected up to 20 organisms from water samples for each project. Next, with guidance from Sachem High School North science teacher Monica Marlowe, Barcode Long Island educators, scientists from Brookhaven National Laboratory in 2017 and Stony Brook University in 2018, they worked to isolate and amplify the DNA of each organism to positively identify each species. Out of the seven viable samples that were submitted for sequencing, two came back with novel sequence data when aligned with available data on the genetic sequence database GenBank. The novel sequence data is significant because no other scientist has yet sequenced these organisms in the cytochrome oxidase I barcode region and these students will be credited with the publication of this sequence information.
“Caitlin, Kaya, Madison and Nistha have collectively dedicated an impressive amount of extracurricular time and energy in the completion of their projects and the pursuit of scientific advancement,” Marlowe said.
In March of this year, collectively, the Sachem scientists sequenced another 26 samples, resulting in seven additional novel sequences to be published in GenBank.