Science in the S.E.A.A.: Dr Giana Gomes unveiled marine secrets with eDNA, demonstrated DNA extraction

Last Friday on 24 August 2018, more than 70 Guardians of the S.E.A.A. members turned up for the third instalment of Science in the S.E.A.A..

Science in the SEAA Giana Gomes

Presenting at the event was Dr Giana Gomes, a lecturer at James Cook University Singapore, and an aquaculture veterinarian researcher with 15 years of experience in aquatic animal health.
Science in the SEAA Giana Gomes

Dr Gomes explained what DNA is and how environmental DNA (eDNA) research is similar to crime scene investigation.

At crime scenes, investigators retrieve samples such as blood, hair, skin and semen as clues to help them solve the crime. Similarly for eDNA research on marine life, samples such as skin mucus, excretions and faeces are collected.
Image credit: Dr Giana Gomes.

One application of eDNA was endangered species research, such as finding the last populations of the endangered sawfish. By finding them, scientists can try to stop these species from going extinct.

eDNA is also used to detect microbes before fishes get sick. This is especially applicable and useful in the context of aquaculture and aquariums.

To help attendees better understand eDNA, Dr Gomes conducted a live demonstration of DNA extraction using strawberries.
Science in the SEAA Giana Gomes

Science in the SEAA Giana Gomes
Dr Gomes demonstrated the steps as the kids watched in awe.
Science in the SEAA Giana Gomes
Crushing the strawberries breaks open the cells and releases the nuclei where the DNA is. When combined with the extraction buffer, the nuclear membrane will break open and release the DNA into the solution.
Science in the SEAA Giana Gomes
Finally, layer an equal volume of ice-cold ethanol on top of the strawberry solution in the test tube. DNA is insoluble in alcohol, so it precipitates. What you see is the precipitation of strawberry DNA – long, thread-like DNA molecules at the interface of the alcohol and DNA solution.

We have one more session of Science in the S.E.A.A. scheduled for the year so keep a lookout for event details in the coming months.

If you’d like to attend fun and educational events like this, join us as Guardians of the S.E.A.A.. Details here.

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