DNA barcoding project

DNA barcoding will allow us to accurately explore the rich biodiversity in NM. This project has both vital environmental and educational value.

Started: 2014-10-24T13:54:48.651520+00:00

Los Alamos, NM 87544, USA

Have you ever ordered a $50 burger?

If you have, I hope it was a Kobe beef burger. When's the last time you had Kobe beef or those famous Kobe sliders? Well, it most likely was not actual Japanese Kobe beef.  Wouldn't it be nice if there were a way to figure it out?

Introducing...DNA barcoding. Each species has some kind of DNA fingerprint. In a similar way we use actual fingerprints to identify human beings. We can use DNA fingerprinting as a means to identify plant and animal species.

While learning about DNA barcodes, high school students "found that 25% of 60 seafood items purchased in grocery stores and restaurants in New York City were mislabeled as more expensive species. One mislabeled fish was the endangered species, Acadian redfish. Another group identified three protected whale species as the source of sushi sold in California and Korea." (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory)

Here is the most disturbing report from a Forbes article: "Fish on the FDA’s “DO NOT EAT” list for sensitive groups such as pregnant women and children because of their high mercury content were sold to customers who had ordered safer fish." (Fake Fish On Shelves And Restaurant Tables Across USA, New Study Says).

Wouldn't you like to experiment? Do it yourself or have us do it. This is one of our cool rewards! So don't miss this unique opportunity.

This is only one of the cool things Biodidact plans to offer.

Who we are:

Biodidact is a new community lab whose mission is to serve our community by helping to make biotechnology education accessible to everyone. You can learn more about Biodidact at www.biodidact.net.

What we offer:

We plan on offering various biotech workshops to students, schools, teachers and any other individual curious about biotechnology. Biodidact also plans on helping students get a head start by giving them basic research experience opportunities.

Why we do what we do:

Our mission: "Biotechnology education for all."

We are a private research laboratory, committed to bringing life sciences to our community in a sustainable and responsible manner.

Biotechnology touches our everyday lives. Adequate biotechnology education is essential to our communities.

Better education = better decisions.

What benefit to our community:

By making science more open, we believe that we will help our community get a better understanding of some of the technology that affects our everyday lives. It will also help students stay in science or even stay in school. Hands-on learning could be the difference between staying in school or dropping out. Biodidact is also an opportunity for people (underemployed, or just curious) to learn new skills.

Benefits to the scientific community:

We believe that when a diverse group comes together...great things happen!

We do believe that "DIY Biolabs" can play an integral part of not only the science education landscape, but also the basic scientific research culture.

In this era of decreased funding for basic science research, growing knowledge and creativity of both scientists and non-scientists, the community can come together and foster creative learning while collaborating with actual scientists and larger research institutions. We think that "citizen science" and "science crowdsourcing" are excellent ways to get our communities more involved and demystify science.

How can we expect our representatives to advocate more funding for basic scientific research if they, or their constituents, don't really grasp what is done in a lab?

What are we raising funds for?

Since our goal is to get more people involved in hands-on science, we need to get, at the very least,  more precision pipettes for people to perform experiments. Each pipette averages at about $100 each, even discounted. We need about 3 per person (3 different volumes: 2 to 10uL, 20 to 200uL and 100 to 1000uL), so that's about $300 per person. Our funding goal of $1500 would cover a set of 3 pipettes for 5 people at a time (a decent workshop size). Any additional money raised would go towards purchasing lab coats and goggles and some reagents for our plant DNA barcoding project described below.

What if you could also help accelerate scientific discovery?...

I'm not just talking about funding research (although it is very important) but actually doing the work, helping collect data!

Yes! YOU can help collect scientific data whether you are a scientist or not...and get credit for it. That's "crowdsourced science".

We are working on a "plant DNA barcoding project in New Mexico." We plan on collaborating with the Pajarito Environmental Education Center to sample our rich local plant biodiversity and add our DNA barcoding data to the open global database.

If you can't contribute any money, maybe you could contribute with some of your time. Helping collect more specimens and/or learn how to help analyze the genetic data collected.

Once we have the data, what do we do with it?! What could possibly be the point of doing all that work?

Besides contributing to the ongoing global "large-scale reference library of life on earth" (1), there are a number of vital benefits to this project:

  • Biosecurity: Identify invasive species
  • Forensic ecology
  • Observe the influence of climate change on species (some species may go extinct under certain conditions while others are allowed to thrive)
  • Potential drug discovery: We could take advantage of the cultural diversity in New Mexico and collect data on medicinal plants traditionally used by Native Americans.

There are a number of possible applications and use of the data. This is only the beginning!

Do you want to be part of this global effort? Help us make this happen in New Mexico! This is a wonderful opportunity for our community! Come on! Please get on board!

Our rewards include an acknowledgement on our website, cool cups and T-shirts, one of our DNA barcoding tests or workshops and you can even offer an in-classroom workshop to the school of your choice.

Risks and challenges:

The quality of the DNA test depends on the quality of the DNA. The test works better with fresh samples. Tests with less than optimal samples are possible but may have to be repeated after optimizing conditions.

Thank you for your time!

Our T-shirt and cup


Here are more cool T-shirts upon request:

(1) Hollingsworth, P.M., Refining the DNA barcode for land plants, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America