FCS Juniors Undertake Mushroom Genetic Barcoding

Dev Gupta '23, Marcus Chiang '23, Michael Chou '23, and Jace Anderson '23

Four of us from the Class of 2023 recently undertook the task of genetically identifying various species of mushrooms from local places, Friends’ Central’s City Avenue campus included. Among the mushroom samples collected were three distinctive specimens from three different locations. Our faculty advisor Mr. Gruber gathered them from Friends’ Central, Crow’s Nest Preserve, and Stoneleigh Preserve. The latter two are Natural Lands preserves. The mushroom pictured here is from FCS! The Crow’s Nest and Stoneleigh mushrooms were somewhat damaged but still easily sequenceable.

In the first semester, we met every Friday and learned varying techniques through hands-on experience. These techniques included micro-pipetting, genetic extraction, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), electrophoresis, and analyzing sequence data through computer software. 

Research like this is often expected in undergraduate institutions and demonstrates the advanced laboratory capabilities at Friends’ Central. We got to experience true wet-lab work as we explored science that can be seen in the world. Species identification is near impossible without genetic markers. These markers form a barcode that identifies a mushroom down to its specific species. 

Soon after we submitted the results to GeneWiz for processing, our success with the process started to become apparent. Species that appeared the same visually returned near-perfect matches with each other and, excitingly, with the BOLD database as well. BOLD is a compilation of sequences that allows you to compare your sequences with those of researchers all over the world. These promising results prompted us to document the work in the form of a paper with emphasis on the importance of teaching these hands-on experiences in high school. We hope that the article will be published soon. We also plan on sharing our findings in an oral presentation in the near future.

(From left) FCS juniors Dev Gupta, Jace Anderson, Michael Chou, and Marcus Chiang with faculty advisor John Gruber

In the future, we will explore sequencing lichens, which have far less documented research than mushrooms and more unknown DNA to analyze. Lichens are plentiful at FCS and consist of a combination of fungus, algae, yeast, and bacteria in a symbiotic relationship. In order to sequence lichen, we will follow the same protocols and steps as the mushrooms; the primers we used to amplify the mushroom DNA, labeled as “general fungal ITS primers,” have broad success on all fungi. Through barcoding lichens, we can learn about other variations in the fungal family.

In other Upper School science news, Friends’ Central’s first ever scientific research article naming a previously unrecognized moth species was released in The Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society in June 2021. Click here to read more.

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