Alabama Bicentennial Grant allows Jackson County students to seek unique plants using DNA

Alabama Bicentennial Grant allows Jackson County students to seek unique plants using DNA

PISGAH, AL (WAFF) - A group of Jackson County students is using DNA to identify plants thanks to an Alabama Bicentennial Grant.

The students are finding plants that are not native anywhere else in the state.

DNA is commonly used to help solve crimes but for these young students it’s used to help identify plants.

Dalton Wilson is in a group of students who are DNA coders at Pisgah High School.

The school recently got a $2,000 Alabama Bicentennial Grant to study plants. “I just like to do it for fun, to learn, too see what else is out there,” said Dalton.

The group went to the Pisgah Gorge and took 50 plant samples. Those samples were sent off to HudsonAlpha for DNA analysis.

“The neat thing is that if that plant is never been in the database then our students will get to submit to that national database so it’s there forever for scientists and anybody else to see,” said Pisgah High School biology teacher Emily Smith.

The samples are now back and the students are looking forward to seeing just how unique their plants are.

It's that excitement educators say is what they hope the students get out of learning about something as simple as a plant.

“That in itself is a win. Getting kids excited and getting kids excited in genetics,” said Smith.

“You’ll see a patch of woods and you don’t think there’s anything actually unique out there until you get out there and start searching and then there’s stuff in there that you don’t know about and hey, I live right here and there’s unique stuff and that’s pretty cool,” said Wilson.

Smith says they’ll begin analyzing those samples when they return back to school early next year. Smith says they’ll have the plant samples analyzed by the end of the school year. She says they’ve already gotten approval for another trip to collect 50 more plant samples.

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