K-12 eDNA Water Sampling Program

Maine-eDNA and Maine EPSCoR have partnered with schools across Maine as part of a community science program that introduces K-12 students to environmental DNA (eDNA) technology. Through this program, teachers and students engage with researchers, participate in the research process, learn about genetics and local biodiversity, and interact with scientists to gain exposure to STEM career pathways. 

This program connects participating teachers and students with eDNA researchers and graduate students to introduce this area of research with an initial Zoom session. Students collect eDNA water samples in their local communities with their classes with assistance from their teachers and the Maine EPSCoR Education, Outreach, and Diversity Program Manager, Beth Campbell. Teachers and students have the opportunity to find out what happens behind the scenes when their collected samples are processed in two videos featuring University of Maine graduate students and staff.  Teachers then receive back the results (targeting fish biodiversity) of their sample and other schools’ samples involved in the program. With each successive year of the program, new eDNA data will be collected and added to the available data set. The study of eDNA can be incorporated into a variety of science classes including environmental studies, chemistry, or genetics/ life science and can be adapted for multiple grade levels.

Fun and Engaging

Sampling the environmental DNA in our very own local sites was fun and engaging for students and a fantastic opportunity to bring “high tech” analysis into the classroom – a real bridge between what requires a professional lab and the imagination and inquiry that students of all ages are capable of.
Alison England,
St. George School

Cutting Edge Science

For high school students, the idea of eDNA feels cutting edge. Our results were surprising and students were engaged in trying to figure out why a particular species appeared in our results. They have already suggested new locations to sample in the future to answer questions they have.
Laurie Spooner,
Van Buren District Secondary School