Fourth Annual Long Island Natural History Conference






























Barcode Long Island: Student-Centered Biodiversity Research

Maria Brown, Science Research Teacher, Sayville High School
Bruce Nash, Assistant Director for Science, Cold Spring Harbor Lab DNA Learning Center

DNA carries a record of how organisms are related. Just as the unique pattern of bars in a universal product code (UPC) identifies each consumer product, a “DNA barcode” is a unique pattern of DNA sequence that identifies each living thing. In Barcode Long Island, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s DNA Learning Center is supporting high school teachers as they lead student teams using DNA barcoding to study Long Island’s inhabitants. After developing proposals, students isolate DNA, amplify barcode regions by PCR, and send amplicons for DNA sequencing so that they can identify species using bioinformatics. In this way, we enable them to answer their own questions and contribute to worldwide barcoding efforts.

At the teacher-student level, the Barcode Long Island Program provides insight into the process of scientific research for students.  Students begin with a proposal based on a review of the literature. Once their proposal has been accepted, students learn how to obtain collecting permits, field protocols for sample collections, and proper photographic cataloging and sample processing techniques.  Once their samples have been processed, they begin the DNA extraction laboratory protocols where they learn how to use primers for polymerase chain reaction, gel electrophoresis, and how to prepare a sample to go off to the sequencing laboratory.  The last step in the process is for students to learn skills in bioinformatics and analysis of their data related to the location(s) in which they were collected. Students get to share what they researched with other students, teachers, families, and scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory each June. Exposure to this process for high school students provides a model for Best Management practices for all future research that students may attempt, as well as improve their critical thinking skills and exposure to multiple STEM disciplines.

Dr. Nash has training in molecular genetics. Since joining the DNALC in 2005, he has helped develop, manage, evaluate, and disseminate training programs for educators throughout the United States supported by NSF, NIH, HHMI, and the Hewlett and Sloan Foundations. He helped develop and optimize the DNALC’s DNA barcoding protocols, and has trained high school and post-secondary faculty to implement DNA barcoding with their students. He has a keen interest in the interaction between humanity and nature, and believes that our well-being is intimately connected to our understanding and stewardship of the land – and that engaging students with the wild empowers them and promotes success. Email:

Maria Brown, MS., PWS, GISP was a senior Environmental Scientist before becoming a science teacher in 1999 at Sayville High School.  After teaching AP Environmental Science and Earth Science for seven years, she has been the high school science research teacher for the past nine years and was trained in wildlife genetics at Brookhaven National Laboratory where she received an ACE Fellowship for three years.  Maria is also a Certified Geospatial Scientist and teaches at Stony Brook University in the School of Marine & Atmospheric Sciences, Sustainability Studies Program.  She combines her genetic and geospatial background to introduce students to an emerging field known as Landscape Genetics. She has been involved in the Barcode Long Island Project since the initial proposal funding stages and has had four of her student team projects accepted since its inception. She is also a New York State Master Teacher, the Conservation Chair for the Great South Bay Audubon Society, and the Vice President of the Coastal Research & Education Society of Long Island. Email: