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School students investigate daffodil DNA
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Blue Diamond Garden Centres and the National Trust launch new and exclusive rose and plant collection
Rugby player Doddie Weir’s MND campaign celebrated at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park 2024
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Garden Centres of the Year - GTN April 2024 Issue - Read on-line here
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Dobbies 20% Off All Plants "had a really positive response..."
Opportunity to browse Norfolk Leisure's full range
Support British manufacturing and keep your carbon footprint low
PATS 2024 welcomes its 260th exhibitor
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School students investigate daffodil DNA


Students from St Margaret’s School for Girls in Aberdeen are working with STEM professionals and academics to help scientists learn more about the genetic traits of daffodils. 


The Daffodil DNA Project, created by teacher Jon Hale on the Isle of Jersey and run by the University of Dundee, aims to inspire the next generation of plant scientists and botanical horticulturalists as well as obtain genetic data on a very valuable but understudied genus.


The collaborative project, funded by a Royal Society Partnership Grant, gives students the opportunity to experience DNA sequencing in the classroom and engage with cutting edge technology to identify and map the DNA that gives rise to different daffodil flower colours, shapes and sizes. The students will be using living collections that originate from heritage varieties bred at Brodie Castle, located in Moray, Scotland, and conserved in a national collection at Croft 16, a partnership set up for conserving surplus bulbs of heritage daffodil varieties. This has been supplemented with new cultivars from Grampian Growers who are interested in helping to support the pioneering educational work.


The STEM partners involved in the project are from the world-leading James Hutton Institute and include a diverse team of PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, and senior academics from the University of Aberdeen and University of Dundee, giving students the opportunity to see the potential of a career in science.


Head of Biology and Sustainability at St Margaret’s School for Girls, Abby Miller, said: “This project is an incredible opportunity for girls to participate in primary science research, and has the potential for scientific publication, leading to a better understanding of daffodils.  As well as DNA sequencing lab work, the senior students taking part will be making and recording growth and phenotype observations, learning extraction techniques, visiting our STEM partner labs in Dundee and working with big data to look at the relatedness of the daffodils. Our daffodils have moved home and are now enjoying a high-tech setup in the physics lab so that we can monitor their growth using time-lapse photography. It is great to be able to use scientific equipment that we wouldn’t normally have access to. The project has exceptional curriculum links, but it is the potential for students to engage with cutting edge technology that will hopefully inspire them to start thinking about their own futures and the opportunities that are available to them if they pursue a career in science.”


St Margaret’s encourages its pupils to study STEM subjects in order to tackle  the stubborn gender gap which continues in the sector.


Celine Muir, student at St Margaret’s School for Girls, said: “As someone who wants to pursue a STEM degree at university and go onto a career in science, I really enjoyed being a part of this project. I have gained important skills such as micro pipetting and have learned the entire process of how to extract and sequence DNA. Decoding the genetics of daffodils has been fascinating and it was really interesting to look at the DNA of a flower that I see all the time in my garden and around the school. Working with the Daffodil team was a very engaging experience and has deepened my understanding of the natural world surrounding us, molecular techniques and the field of bioinformatics.”


Clarissa Iluore, student at St Margaret’s School for Girls, said: “My favourite part of the project is that I get to build on my research, communication and teamwork skills during each class. I truly believe that the skills I have gained will aid me well in my future career where I hope to work in the world of medicine.”


Jon Hale Project Lead, a PhD student at the University of Dundee, said: “Through the Daffodil DNA Project, students and staff at St Margaret's School for Girls will be genuinely contributing to scientific knowledge, exploring the sequences in DNA of historically significant daffodils. With the pressures of climate change and the economy, we need to gain as much knowledge of the world around us before they are lost, and fortunately the citizen scientists of St Margaret's School for Girls have stepped up to help.


“In addition to the science, students will be interacting with scientists from across the team led by the University of Dundee, hopefully inspiring more of our students to undertake a career in plant sciences and maintain our place at the cutting edge for another generation.”


Headteacher of St Margaret’s School for Girls, Anna Tomlinson, said: “There is still a clear need to address the gender STEM gap which persists today. Initiatives which encourage students to move into STEM studies and careers like the Daffodil DNA Project, can help nurture interest and ambition in STEM fields and future careers.”

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