By Rebecca Bell
Dean of Community Relations & Special Events
Under the direction of Midland College (MC) Biology Professor Dr. Paul Mangum, research students have recorded two new genetic markers for grass species that have subsequently been published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website. The grass species were found at the I-20 Wildlife Preserve, where Mangum routinely takes his students for hands-on lab study and research.
Megan Dutton, a junior at Monahans High School, has been working with Dr. Mangum on research projects for several years. When Megan was in the eighth grade, she attempted to amplify, extend and locate a crossover gene in her family’s DNA segment. Under the guidance of Dr. Mangum, Dutton researched the TAS2R38 gene and became very proficient with all the tools needed for lab protocols during her work in the facilities provided by MC.
During the I-20 Wetlands Preserve grass project, Dutton collected and barcoded eight grass specimens. She used a LI-COR 4300 DNA analyzer, which was provided with a grant from the Midland College Foundation, to complete the sequences. During her investigations, Dutton found two species that did not have a published barcode.
Working with Greg Huber, an agriculturalist from Monahans, the identification of the two species was confirmed. Then working with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories iPlant Collaborative, Dutton submitted the DNA Barcodes for the grasses to the NCBI database. The DNA Barcode for two of the grasses collected — Schoenoplectus acutus and Setaria pumila — are now published on the NCBI website .
Mangum explained, “I first heard about the barcode project while at a conference in Tulsa and decided that this was something that we could incorporate into our biology curriculum at Midland College. It’s fun and it’s outside!”
MC Dean of Math and Science Dr. Margaret Wade exclaimed, “It is so exciting for Midland College to be instrumental in the barcoding and publication of these grass species. I am so very proud of everything that Dr. Mangum does with students to further the interest in and study of science.”