Students in Mrs. Ruth Fried’s AP Biology class at Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls (Central), under the guidance of Mrs. Shulamith Biderman, participated in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Learning Center Urban Barcoding Project, and presented their findings on May 24 at the DNA Barcoding Symposium at Manhattan Medical College.

Each year, the DNA Learning Center sponsors the project, in which qualified high school student teams from all over New York City learn to use DNA barcoding as a technique to explore New York City’s native biodiversity.

This year, Bailey Fink, Sarah Harris, and Leeba Sullivan presented “Cilantro, or No?,” in which they demonstrated that cilantro is genetically more similar to certain Chinese aromatic herbs than to carrots and celery, the plants with which it was previously classified based on phenotype. Their work demonstrated the importance of DNA Barcoding in improving taxonomic accuracy.

Devorah Feldman, Eliana Fatir, and Elizabeth Kalantarov presented “Which Berries are Most Genetically Similar to Roses?,” in which they demonstrated the genetic similarity between roses and strawberries, and suggested that strawberries could be used as a substitute for roses in medical situations in which roses cause negative side effects.

Finally, Yael Laks and Tehila Rothbort analyzed three types of bananas in a paper titled “Very APEELing DNA.” They found that while Cavendish bananas and plantains are genetically similar, lady finger bananas are actually more similar to tomatoes and eggplants than the other two banana species. All of the projects drew on the biodiversity of Queens, making use of herbs, fruits, and flowers.


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