by | Mar 27, 2019 | 0 comments

Tuna, flounder, and mackerel, oh my!

Correctly identifying a fish to its species is an important skill for any young biologist to develop. In March, Ocean Genome Legacy taught students to do just that with its “Fish Forensics” workshops at the Boston High School Marine Science Symposium and the North Shore High School Marine Science Symposium.

Students learned how to identify closely related species of fish using a dichotomous key—a fancy name for a decision tree that guides them through a series of questions based on physical characteristics of each fish.

However, there are circumstances when a biologist may not have access to these physical characteristics. For example, after a fish has already been filleted, chopped, cooked, smoked, or turned into a soup or salad. In these cases, DNA barcoding can be an important tool to have in the toolbox. By comparing the DNA sequence of an organism to a known library of sequences, scientists can determine the identity of many different species, even if they start with only a tiny bit of the organism!

 

Students at the 2019 High School Marine Science Symposiums in Boston and the North Shore learn how to use DNA to identify various fish species. Photo credits: Hannah Appiah-Madson (left and center) and Rosie Falco (right).

For educators who may be interested, the materials for this workshop are available here.

OGL will be presenting this workshop at the Massachusetts Marine Educators Conference on Saturday, May 4, 2019, in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and at the 2019 Evolution in Changing Seas Career Workshop for Girls at the Northeastern University Marine Science Center on April 16–17, 2019, in Nahant, Massachusetts.

Want to contribute to developing educational materials? By making a gift to OGL, you can help support our education and outreach mission.

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