On Friday, November 13th, the Middle School class visited the USDA lab located in Fort Pierce. The purpose of this field trip was to extract DNA from the organisms that make up the structure of dirt. This coincided with the science theme, which was soil. We met Dr. Rosskopf, one of our alumni’s parents just outside of her lab. She introduced us to her colleagues, who helped us extract the DNA. Kimmie Fryar’s sister, Kelly Fryar interned with Dr. Rosskopf.
After this, we started the process by weighing dirt to get seventy-five grams, which is very minimal. Then we placed a chemical in the dirt. We had to cool this mixture in their scientific refrigerator for fifteen minutes, so Dr. Rosskopf introduced us to another one of colleagues, Dr. Burelle, who studies nematodes, a microscopic creature that plays a large role in dirt. Some of her interns were extracting nematodes from the roots of plants.
Following this, we returned to the lab and started working on the DNA samples. Once the mixture was cool, we started by placing a chemical in a tube with the dirt and then we spun it by using a machine that goes up to 12000 rpm, which surprised us all, because the maximum cars reach before changing gears is four to five thousand rpm. We repeated this process multiple times, except, we used different chemicals each time. This slowly made the mixture translucent. While freezing it for one minute each time after spinning them.
The middle school students were very intrigued with this topic, because we learned so much from documentaries that we had watched, but doing this hands on was an amazing experience that taught us much and helped us better understand soil and how crucial it is to life on Earth.
Written by: Vivek Talati