The Urban Barcode Project (UBP) is a science program spanning the five boroughs of New York City and the surrounding metropolitan area. Just as a unique pattern of bars in a universal product code (UPC) identifies each item for sale in a store, a DNA barcode is a DNA sequence that uniquely identifies each species of living thing.
The UBP is the first large-scale effort to engage high school students using DNA technology to explore biodiversity in New York City. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation supported the first round of the UBP from January 2011 through June 2012. Since 2012, the UBP has continued to promote the exploration of biodiversity in New York City and expanded into the metropolitan area. The UBP is currently supported by the Thompson Family Foundation.
Projects can use DNA barcodes to examine any aspect of the environment, such as:
The program is open to high school students in the New York Metropolitan area who are enrolled in grades 9–12. Teams of 2–4 students must be sponsored by a qualified science teacher (see below on how to qualify) or mentor. A mentor can be an undergraduate or graduate student, Ph.D. researcher, or any person with a working knowledge of DNA barcoding and/or ecology who is willing to spend sufficient time with a high school student team. Team members do not have to be from the same school.
The formatted project proposal should include:
Each selected team will have free access to everything needed for their DNA barcode experiments, including equipment, protocols, and reagents for DNA extraction, PCR, and DNA sequencing for up to 30 samples. Teams may attend Open Lab days at designated locations where they can get additional training and access equipment to complete portions of their experiments. Loaner equipment will be available for use by individual schools, or groups of nearby schools to share.
Science teachers who wish to sponsor teams must participate in a training workshop provided by the DNA Learning Center. Student project proposals will only be accepted if a sponsoring teacher has received official training. Training is not required for mentors with previous experience in DNA barcoding. For more information and to register for a DNA barcoding mentor workshop, visit the Teacher Training page.
A teacher or mentor can work with up to five student teams.