by | Oct 29, 2015 | 0 comments

Hands-On Discovery and Family Fun at the MSC Annual Open House

On Saturday, October 3, nearly 600 visitors explored the Northeastern University Marine Science Center at the Annual Open House, a fun-filled day of hands-on discovery. Ocean Genome Legacy inspired the next generation of ocean stewards with touchable specimens and kits, a Nahant Bioblitz poster gallery, and a DNA science activity. Visitors of all ages from over 40 communities showed off their observation and engineering skills, created wet and wonderful works of art, and learned how they can join marine scientists in studying and protecting the sea’s amazing resources.

Help OGL to provide more inspiring outreach opportunities in the community with your support!

Young visitors became “Scientists for a Day” at the Marine Science Center’s Annual Open House.

Young visitors became “Scientists for a Day” at the Marine Science Center’s Annual Open House. Photo credit: Scott Reed.

A Recipe for DNA

Did you know that you can purify DNA using simple kitchen ingredients? At OGL’s DNA extraction activity, visitors used salt, dish soap, and rubbing alcohol to extract DNA from snow peas, and then learned how DNA from marine species is helping medicine, biotechnology, and conservation.

Visitors lined up to add snow peas, salt, soap, and rubbing alcohol to their test tubes.

Visitors lined up to add snow peas, salt, soap, and rubbing alcohol to their test tubes.

By mixing, squirting, and pipetting these safe, familiar materials, our “lab assistants” learned the essential chemical principles that OGL scientists use to preserve DNA from precious marine samples. Then, we used a sophisticated lab gadget, the Nanodrop spectrophotometer (not found in kitchens!), to measure each group’s DNA concentration and check for contaminants. Two teams earned top honors for their new skills: “Most Concentrated DNA” and “Purest DNA!”

A newly trained young scientist successfully precipitated a wispy white glob of DNA.

A newly trained young scientist successfully precipitated a wispy white glob of DNA.

Discovery Stations

At OGL’s discovery booth, visitors practiced their marine science skills and got a close, personal look at real specimens. Explorers of all ages learned how to identify local invasive species, investigated sea star biodiversity, and diagnosed disease in a preserved lobster shell.

Eager visitors asked questions about horseshoe crabs, deep-sea specimens, and other marine oddities.

Eager visitors asked questions about horseshoe crabs, deep-sea specimens, and other marine oddities.

Practicing the techniques used by deep-sea explorers, families made their sample tubes whir and shake inside a high-speed homogenizer machine, part of the “OGL in a Box” shipboard DNA preservation kit.

Two explorers-in-training loaded a sample onto the shipboard DNA preservation kit.

Two explorers-in-training loaded a sample onto the shipboard DNA preservation kit.

After observing some live wood-eating shipworms in a small aquarium, young visitors also inspected the shell-like burrow lining of a rare giant shipworm the size of a child!

This child-sized shell-like tube was made by a giant shipworm.

This child-sized shell-like tube was made by a giant shipworm.

Visitors and scientists alike enjoyed a delightful day of “aha!” moments, fun facts, and insightful questions from the next generation of biodiversity stewards.

Learning and Inspiration

Despite blustery weather and crashing waves, the entire Marine Science Center was abuzz with activity and excitement. Visitors crafted plankton models using foam and art materials, made seaweed pressings to document each species’ intricate details, and transformed beach trash into original treasures. Scientists dressed up as sea creatures cruised the halls showing off their special adaptations. Not only did visitors get to meet an unusual blue lobster, but they also watched “Robolobster” perform the same coordinated crawling moves, an amazing example of bio-inspired engineering. Check out more photos here!

From touch tanks to technology to tidepools, this exciting day inspired young explorers to dive into their local ecosystems, showed residents how we all depend on our oceans, and sparked passions for marine discovery. We hope to see you next year!

Your support helps OGL provide outreach and discovery activities to the community! Please support our work to educate and inspire the next generation of marine scientists!

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