DNA Barcoding 101 includes the laboratory prototol and supporting resources for using DNA barcoding to identify plants or animals – or products made from them. The site is also the home base for teachers and mentors participating in DNALC student research programs, including Barcode Long Island, Urban Barcode Project, and the Urban Barcode Research Program.
Many science educators struggle to bring the process of science through authentic research to their students. DNA barcoding fulfills the promise of modern, Internet-enabled biology—allowing students to work with the same data, with the same tools, at the same time as high-level researchers. A short "DNA barcode" (about 600 nucleotides in length) is a unique pattern of DNA sequence that can potentially identify any living thing. DNA barcoding projects can stimulate independent student thinking across different levels of biological organization, linking molecular genetics to ecology and evolution—with the potential to contribute new scientific knowledge about biodiversity, conservation biology, and human effects on the environment.
DNA barcoding provides a practical way to bring open-ended experimentation into biology classes. The core wet lab and bioinformatic analyses can be mastered in a relatively short time, allowing students projects lasting a single academic term. Using DNA barcoding as the common method for multiple student projects decreases the need for intensive, expert preparation and mentoring—enabling meaningful research by large numbers of students.
To help realize this promise, we developed an integrated biochemical and bioinformatics workflow for DNA barcode analysis. The biochemistry uses non-caustic reagents to isolate DNA from plant, animal, or fungus. The barcode region is amplified by polymerase chain reaction and visualized by agarose gel electrophoresis. The barcode amplicons are mailed to a commercial sequencing service. Within 48 hours, finished barcode sequences are uploaded to DNA Subway, the DNALC's intuitive bioinformatics workflow for education, which includes all tools needed to visualize and edit barcode sequences, search the GenBank database for matches, align sequences, and construct phylogenetic trees.