In minimis rebus omnibus

When I was 12 years old in 1978, my 7th grade life science teacher had set up a number of microscopes with glass dishes of liquid. I had never looked through a microscope and the dishes of liquid looked clear except for maybe a few specks I could make out here and there. She said there were organisms in that liquid and that if I looked through the microscope I could see those organisms. She said they were nothing like I had ever seen before and that they all came from a pond nearby. I peered into the microscope and saw Volvox, the colonial green algae and was immediately blown away. How could a simple machine allow my childhood self to see a world previously unknown? It was the defining moment in my life where science became a life long passion.

In 2018 we now have the potential in high school to take some of those same organisms, or any organism really, and go even smaller to know more things about those organisms based on the blueprints embedded in each cell. It is astounding that a high school student in 2018 can extract cells from a living thing, isolate the DNA from that living thing, and use that information to know unseen intimate details about it.

The goal of this long term project is to excite students like I was excited 40 years ago.

Wolbachia Project - What if I told you that the most diverse group of organisms on Earth had another organism living inside them that could control how they reproduce and maybe even live? This project will look at the presence of these bacteria in arthropods. How many organisms can we find that are infected and impacted by this symbiont?

Tick Project - No one really likes ticks. They are one of the most hated organisms on the planet because they can be vectors for disease. Like all organisms they harbor a rich microbiome of bacteria; some bad, some not bad, some mysterious. Let's take a look and see which ones we can find. (Small team of 4-6 students)

DNA Barcoding Club - Taxonomists organize the tree of life by the way things look and act. We can now access discrete genetic information in order to support or rewrite taxonomic groupings. These DNA segments act as barcodes. How can we use this barcode information to solve biodiversity problems about our world? (limited to 9 students for 2018)

By Frank Fox ( [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (] , via Wikimedia Commons