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A new generation of eDNA detectives at the Cawthron Inspire festival

The Marine Biosecurity Toolbox “Detect” team recently held an environmental DNA (eDNA) biosecurity workshop during the CAWTHRON INSPIRE Festival’s second day. This annual event held in Nelson is dedicated to igniting the curiosity of young minds. The festival, designed for primary and intermediate schoolchildren (approximately aged 8-13), offers an array of engaging and challenging workshops spanning various STEAMS (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths, and Society) disciplines.

Picture 1: Dr. Ulla von Ammon giving the opening talk in front of 500 children, setting the tone for the second day of the CAWTHRON INSPIRE Festival.

In the workshop titled “eDNA Detectives: Unleash the Power of Genetics to Safeguard Our Seas,” scientists Dr. Xavier Pochon, Dr. Ulla von Ammon and Ph.D. student Michelle Scriver transported the young attendees into the realm of marine biosecurity. They challenged students to assume the role of real scientists and explore the latest technologies for safeguarding marine ecosystems.

The adventure kicked off with a game where aspiring scientists mastered lab pipettes to mix varying amounts of food colouring, skilfully crafting a vibrant rainbow. Equipped with these newfound skills, they ventured into the realm of genetic analysis. Using qPCR technology, they successfully detected the presence of invasive species in small aquariums, gaining insights into the secrets of eDNA and its pivotal role in monitoring and preserving our oceans.

Picture 2: Aspiring scientists mastering the colour pipette challenge and expertly creating vibrant rainbows.

The enthusiasm and engagement of the young participants made it such a pleasure to be a part of this great event and contribute to the development of the next generation of biosecurity scientists. A special thank-you is extended to all the volunteers who made this day possible, as well as to program partners and end-users at Cawthron Institute and the Ministry for Primary Industries. Looking forward to next year!

Picture 3: A group of inspiring young minds, equipped with new knowledge and pipette skills.

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