What a way to start Term 3! The St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar School Senior Biology students met at Berwick Railway Station on the their last first day of Term 3, to travel to Melbourne University to participate in two programs a workshop on Genetic Issues and a laboratory session that looked at Evidence for evolutionary change using Drosophila melanogaster and An investigation into how antibiotic resistance may be transferred.
This workshop was specifically programmed for our students and they had to grapple with the issues involved in genetically modifying organisms.
Some of the organisms considered were; red grapefruit created by mutagenesis – changing the genome of the seeds using radiation; which interestingly doesn’t require GMO labels and has been used in crop manipulation since the 1950’s. Transgenic organisms: canola, that has a fish gene so that it produces omega three. The discussion was rich and thought provoking. The presenter encouraged the students to view every issue with different goggles so that they could see different points of view. There were not any clear-cut solutions and we all left with more questions than answers.
After a very brief lunch break our students participated in a laboratory session which consisted, in total, of 104 Biology students. Using a micropipette the students loaded a gel with DNA fragments to determine if a gene resistant to antibiotics had been taken up by a colony of bacteria. For most of the students it was their first use of the micropipettes and gel electrophoresis.
Whilst waiting for the gel, students were given several generations of Drosophila melanogaster to determine the allele frequency of wild type versus vestigial wings. The students were able to view the specimens under exceptional binocular microscopes and learn what it would be like to collect real data in the laboratory. It was great for students to understand that recessive genes, if not lethal prior to breeding maturity, will remain within a population even if they are not expressed.
Overall, it was an excellent learning experience for all students involved.
Ms Delanie Lewis