Forensic science plays an important role in efforts to conserve and protect wildlife. A wildlife forensic lab acts much like a police lab, except the victim is an animal. I’ve designed an inquiry-based after-school course for high school students built around molecular wildlife forensics. In this course, students use modern techniques of molecular genetics to solve a wildlife forensics mystery— the identification of fish species from caviar to determine if the eggs came from a protected endangered species.
Species identification from only the shape and appearance of fish eggs is difficult and so students learn how to identify a species using its DNA. The course covers foundational topics in genetics and involves intensive reading and writing exercises in the CREATE model of science education. Students analyze original scientific data, read primary scientific literature, and write a report in the style of a journal publication.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Teaching Fellows In K-12 Education program originally funded development of the course. The course has been piloted as part of the CUNY College Now program in New York City and has been taught at the Manhattan Hunter Science High School. Curriculum details and materials are available upon request.