May Newsletter: Genetics & AP Biology Visit San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Genetics & AP Biology Visit San Diego Zoo Safari Park
By Sarah Herrman ’14 and Emily Edgin ’14

On Tuesday, March 23, OLP’s Genetics and AP Biology classes went on a field trip to the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park. Students met their teachers outside of the park at 8:30 and split into two groups. One group began their day with a fascinating presentation on the endangered California condor and the successful measures the Zoo has taken to increase their numbers from around twenty-five in late 1980s to nearly four hundred today. Once these creatures reach a population of four hundred fifty, due to the effort put out by the San Diego Zoo and other organizations, they will then be taken off the extremely endangered list. The girls were then given the opportunity to perform a PCR or polymerase chain reaction lab, where they combined real condor DNA with polymerase and nucleic acids. This mixture was then placed in a centrifuge, and then relocated into a temperature-regulated chamber to help initiate DNA replication.

Meanwhile, the other group was given time to roam the park as they wished, asked only to fill out a worksheet with basic information about a few of the animals on exhibit. At noon the two groups switched, and students who previously had been in the lab now took advantage of the opportunity to see the concepts of evolutionary development and genetic transfer made concrete in the creatures on exhibit. Meanwhile, the afternoon lab group then spent their share of time learning about the California condor and performing the experiment. In just a week’s time, the girls who performed the experiment will get back the results of the gel electrophoresis that the Zoo performed on the DNA the girls replicated. This data will help them determine whether the DNA they used in the lab belonged to a female or male condor. All in all, this trip was an educational, yet exciting way for the Genetics and AP Biology students to apply the concepts they have learned in class to real-life uses of genetics in animal conservation.