Biotech students learn about ocean acidification and study Orca scat

Monday, August 1, 2016

Local high school students participated in “Biotechnology and the Environment,”
a Project Biotech camp hosted on Shoreline’s campus Summer 2016.
Photo courtesy Shoreline Community College

What can one learn from Orca scat?

Ask the Project Biotech high school students who participated in the one-week “Biotechnology and the Environment” camp at Shoreline Community College July 25-29.

Using the same techniques that biological researchers in the field use, including DNA sequence analysis and immunological assays, campers ran a series of tests on Orca scat to determine which correlates best with Orca stress: disturbance by vessels or lack of food (prey).

The camp is one of three biotechnology camps that Shoreline hosted on its campus this summer, with the other two focusing on “Biotechnology Essentials” and “Biotechnology and Human Health”.

This is the third year in a row Shoreline has welcomed Project Biotech camps, unique biotechnology and career-focused camps that engage students in hands-on lab and computer activities, introduce them to scientists, and inspire them to see themselves in STEM careers.

“The goal is to encourage these students to become the next generation of talent in the biotechnology field,” said Dina Kovarik, PhD and Director of the Biotechnology Lab Specialist program at Shoreline. “These students are learning how scientists research and find solutions to real problems facing our communities today.”

Some of the real-world issues campers study are: 
  • ocean acidification, which is already impacting the Puget Sound and the shellfish at the base of our region’s food web that both Orcas and humans rely on, and 
  • Hantavirus, which is traditionally transmitted from rodents to humans but has recently seen some cases of human to human transmission.

“One of these students may someday design a vaccine to prevent Hantavirus,” said Kovarik. “It’s our job to get them excited about the field and to understand it as a viable career option so that they continue on in their studies.”

The camps included a mix of hands-on lab activities, career panels and discussions with scientists, and field trips to local biotech companies and research labs and institutions. The camps served 65 students in 9-12th grades from more than 15 different area high schools.


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