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DNA Barcoding at HDCH

HDCH students working with the University of Guelph

What is DNA barcoding? Grade 12 biology students at HDCH had the exciting opportunity to collect specimens from the school campus and send them to the Biodiversity Institute at the University of Guelph to have their DNA barcodes created.

DNA barcodes, much like UPC barcodes used for grocery items, but instead of representing a banana or a bag of milk, it represents a DNA sequence. The four colours on the code represent the four bases that make up the DNA of all living organisms on the planet. Each species has a unique DNA sequence and therefore a unique barcode. The University of Guelph has created a databank of these DNA barcodes and is a world leader in DNA-­based species identification.

The students used LifeScanner kits and an app on their iPad to scan vials and upload pictures and data on their specimens and where they were collected. The U of G will extract the DNA, amplify it, sequence it and create the barcode for it. It will then compare the barcode to the databank and send the students their results. The results will also be uploaded onto the publically accessible application.

Students will be able to hit “My barcodes” and see the barcode, the taxonomic information, the pictures and the map of where their species can be found. Who knows, maybe a new species will be discovered on HDCH property!

This technology has many applications including identifying species of birds that cause bird strikes to planes, revealing fraud in the meat industry, the supplement industry and the seafood industry. It is also used to identify endangered movement of invasive species.