Discover the Microbes Within: The Wolbachia Project
FHS Students have participated in the Discover the Microbes Within: The Wolbachia Project since 2007 when we were one of three schools nationwide to pilot the project. Wolbachia is an endosymbiotic bacterium that lives within the reproductive tract of insects and affects their evolution by killing males, turning males into reproductive females, and allowing females to reproduce without males (parthenogenesis). In this integrated series of biotechnology labs, students collect and identify insects using an online taxonomic key, extract DNA from the insects, use the polymerase chain reaction to copy the extracted DNA, and perform gel electrophoresis to verify the presence of the Wolbachia DNA. Students then send their Wolbachia DNA to the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole for sequencing. Typically about 20% of insects are infected with Wolbachia. This project was funded by Massachusetts BioTeach, the Howard Hughes Medical Institution, and the National Science Foundation.
Students loading extracted DNA samples into the thermalcyler to copy the Wolbachia DNA through PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) and then into the gel electrophoresis box to visualize the bacterial DNA.