The Ideal Molecular Barcode for Identifying Freshwater Green Algae (Chlorophyceae)

Mira Loma High School
Sacramento, California
DOI: 10.18258/9257
Raised of $3,200 Goal
Funded on 6/17/17
Successfully Funded
  • $3,204
  • 100%
  • Funded
    on 6/17/17

About This Project

The aim of this research is to find and test gene regions in the genome of freshwater green algae which can aid the identification of species in this taxon. These so-called molecular barcodes will be amplified by PCR and compared by sequence analysis, and their successful application will aid greatly in determining the current taxonomy of green algae, as well as conducting environmental surveys, identifying new species, or selecting strains for potential human use and applications.

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What is the context of this research?

Molecular biology could revolutionize the identification of algae, including by finding new species, cataloging regional flora, or revising their taxonomy. A popular method for identifying algae utilizes short DNA regions called molecular barcodes, which can be easily amplified in many species and are simple to analyze (e.g. with BLAST). However, in freshwater green algae, the ideal barcode has not been determined. Vieira (2016) claims the tufA gene region to be the best, but Hall et al. (2010) concluded that none of those they tested were ideal. On the other hand, successes in other groups of algae, such as the ITS2 marker for diatoms as determined by Moniz and Kaczmarksa (2009), suggest that there is still hope for green algae to benefit from this technology.

What is the significance of this project?

Finding a good molecular barcode for freshwater green algae would make it possible to identify them at a much lower cost and with greater ease than current microscopic methods. This can aid in the study of lesser-known groups of algae, including discovering new or cryptic species . Massively-parallel sequencing methods can be used for environmental assessments or ecological surveys. Studying the speciation of algae can also help modernize their taxonomy and clear up their evolutionary history and relationships to other autotrophs. In addition, advances in the molecular biological study of algae may aid in applied or commercial research, including the genetic engineering of algae for biofuel and food production, waste management use, and fertilizer optimization.

What are the goals of the project?

The primary goal of this project is to test about 6 promising molecular barcode candidates in a random selection of about 20 species of wild freshwater green algae. Using PCR, the barcodes will be amplified from the algae and then sequenced. The barcodes will be used to try and identify the algae without microscopic aid. All of the sequences of one type of barcode will then be used to construct phylogenetic trees (with 6 unique trees total), which will then be compared to the latest taxonomic model of green algae to evaluate their accuracy.

A secondary goal of this project is to sequence the chloroplast genome of a few species of algae. This will allow for the comparison of large portions of DNA and possibly aid in developing new barcode regions.


Please wait...

At this moment, my research is probably at the 10% mark - I have begun to use PCR techniques to amplify some of my molecular barcodes in a few species of algae, thanks to the donation of reagent samples from a few companies. However, the reagents and funds will run dry in the middle of summer, right when I plan on starting my most intensive work.

The key components of the requested budget are the software/hardware and the sequencing materials. In order for me to transform my copied DNA into meaningful data, I will need to be able to sequence it somehow, and then interpret the millions of base pairs it contains. Although I have reached out to several companies and universities and secured lab space at my school, I have not found anyone who is financially able to support my research, most importantly the sequencing step. Your donation is essential and would be greatly appreciated to help this project follow through by funding its longest leg and seeing it to completion.

Endorsed by

Bowen is an exceptional young scientist with a passion for microalgae. He already has several years of research experience, and I am excited to see this project, which tackles an important issue of better identifying a diverse group of organisms with vast economic potential.

Flag iconProject Timeline

May 03, 2017

Project Launched

Jun 10, 2017

Finalize all experimental algae strains

Jun 30, 2017

Create algal PCR templates 

Jul 15, 2017

Finish PCRs of all molecular barcodes

Aug 01, 2017

Finish purifying PCR fragments

Meet the Team

Bowen Jiang
Bowen Jiang
Independent High School Researcher


Mira Loma High School
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Bowen Jiang

Hello! I am a senior at Mira Loma High School in Sacramento, California, although I just moved here a year ago from Chico, California, where I had lived for my whole life. I first began my journey in science when I was very young by raising butterflies (the study of which I still pursue as a hobby), but I found my current interest - algae - after my fifth grade birthday, when my parents bought me a microscope as a present. I quickly began a habit of making weekly trips to local ponds and lakes to collect water to explore at microscopic proportions, and I began to cultivate their microorganisms and use them in simple experiments.

In my 9th and 10th grade years, I worked with Dr. Gordon Wolfe at California State University, Chico on a variety of studies with temperate marine microalgae, as well as a few independent projects. Since my move last summer, however, it has been very difficult for me to continue my research while I look for someone at a local university with whom I can work closely. My father had a kidney transplant the same summer, and combined with the move, my parents have not been able to financially back my increasingly complex research projects the way they used to when I was a kid. Although my school has supported me by offering me lab space and helping me connect with a few companies to borrow lab equipment, they are not able to fund me either.

The project I am focusing on now is one I have been interested in for a few years now, and I believe that it can definitely make a meaningful impact in both the pure and applied algal sciences. With your help, I hope to continue my exploration of the microscopic world by perfecting a new tool with which to identify the same algae I once excitedly observed, and present or publish my work so that it may help other scientists in their research. Thank you very much for your consideration!

Project Backers

  • 18Backers
  • 100%Funded
  • $3,204Total Donations
  • $178.00Average Donation
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