Barcoding the Broads

Posted on 30th Jan 2023

The Darwin Tree of Life project aims to sequence the genomes of all eukaryotic organisms in Britain and Ireland - around 70,000 species of animals, plants, fungi and protists. The more we learn about genomes, the more we will understand about evolution, adaptation, cell biology and the huge diversity of life around us.  

Barcoding the Broads, a project funded by the Wellcome Trust, is contributing to this mammoth task by barcoding the genome of organisms found in and around the Norfolk Broads.  

Sixth Form Biology students at Attleborough Academy, working alongside a PhD student at the Earlham Institute in Norwich, were given the opportunity to contribute to this project by extracting the DNA from plants found in their local surroundings, amplify its DNA using PCR, barcode this DNA and then send it off for DNA sequencing and analysis.  

Students found the experience fascinating and valued the experience of applying what they had learnt in school as part of the A-Level Biology course to a real-life scenario and participating in a ‘live’ experiment.  

One student said; “It was fascinating to see how PCR works. I enjoyed the balance between the theory covered and then applying that understanding to a practical. I’m inspired to find out more about the Darwin Tree of Life and perhaps working in a research setting in the future”.  

Mr Seymour is looking to continue this work with the Earlham Institute in the future, and contributing more to the project, perhaps by sequencing some insects’ genomes at school.  

If you are interested in learning more about this project, please visit: - 

 Barcoding the Broads: Exploring Biodiversity (    


Genomes - the complete set of genetic instructions needed for making and maintaining an organism.  

Eukaryotic - organisms whose cells contain a nucleus and other membrane-bound organelles. 

PCR - Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a technique used to "amplify" small segments of DNA. 

DNA Sequencing - a laboratory technique used to determine the exact sequence of nucleotides, or bases, in a DNA molecule. 

Written by J Seymour
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