DNA Barcoding and Insect Genetics

Kevin Catalan

ASR Year 3

Research Objective:

DNA has been used as a tool for the identification of the species origin of an organism since the early 1990s. In 2003 biologists agreed on the term “DNA Barcoding” as it pertains to the amplification and sequencing of a specific fragment of the gene coding for the protein cytochrome oxidase subunit I in animals, of fragments of the genes coding for the proteins rbcL and matK in plants, as well as the nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region in fungi. Over the past decade DNA barcoding has been used to identify known species, as well as to characterize newly described species and species assemblages.

This shows promise in benefiting society and our environment. Among the numerous applications of DNA barcoding, examples include the monitoring of invasive species through major importation routes and ports of entry, the surveillance of arthropod vectors for microbial pathogens, and the conservation of endangered and threatened species.

My goal is to further expand our understanding of ant niches within the urban environment of NYC using DNA barcoding.

Previous studies & References

1. Buczkowski G, Richmond D. 2012. The Effect of Urbanization on Ant Abundance and Diversity: A Temporal Examination of Factors Affecting Biodiversity. PLoS ONE 7(8):e41729.

2. Clarke K, Fisher B, LeBuhn G. 2008. The Influence of Urban Park Characteristics on Ant (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) Communities. Urban Ecosystems 11(3):317-334.

3. Menke S, Benoit G, Sexton J, Weiser M, Dunn R, Silverman J. 2010. Urban Areas May Serve as Habitat and Corridors for Dry, Heat Tolerant Species; an Example from Ants. UrbanEcosystems 14(2):135-163.

4. Menke S, Booth W, Dunn RR, Schal C, Vargo EL, Silverman J. 2012. Is It Easy to Be Urban? Convergent Success in Urban Habitats among Lineages of a Widespread Native Ant. PLoS ONE 5(2):e9194.

5. Pecarevic M, Danoff-Burg J, Dunn RR. 2010. Biodiversity on Broadway – Enigmatic Diversity of the Societies of Ants (Formicidae) on the Streets of New York City. PLoS ONE 5(10):e13222.

6. Piva A, De Carvalho Campos AE. 2011. Ant Community Structure (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Two Neighborhoods with Different Urban Profiles in the City of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Psyche 2012(390748):1-8.

7. Rice E. 2013. Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants. McCoy.

Research Motivation:

I am a Junior from Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics who is studying in the ASR program. Ever since I was a kid, science has fascinated me and always struck my curiosity. The primary step I took towards a science career path was entering the Advanced Science Research Program: ASR is a three-year rigorous college program which includes grant writing, presentation skills, and literature research. I am also part of the International Student and Teacher exchange program which includes field study research, literature research techniques, data analysis, statistical analysis, working under supervision of research scientists and, partnerships with international students and teachers.

ASR student background:

Kevin Catalan is a year 3 Advanced Science Research student who has worked throughout his first year with the initial goal of attaining a mentor and being able to succeed in completing all three years to gain electoral college credits. His intended college majors include Genetics, Molecular science and Entomology.

Grade level:

Senior, 12th grade


●       Awarded a $500 stipend for completing the Urban Barcode Research Project and carrying out the project “DNA Barcoding Highlights the Genetic Diversity of Native and Non-Native Ants in Broadway Medians, Central Park, and Riverside Park”.                                                             (May 2014)

●       Awarded $500 from the Young Science Achievers Grant program to study “DNA Barcoding Highlights the Genetic Diversity of Native and Non-Native Ants in Broadway Medians, Central Park, and Riverside Park”.                                                                                                                       (2013-2014)

●       Attained a mentor for 2013-14 Academic year                                                                     (2013-14)

●       Urban Barcode Program, sponsored by Cold Spring Harbor,  learned how to do DNA barcoding, gel electrophoresis                                                                                                        (2013-14)

●       Black Rock Forest summer Scholarship, one week of turtle survey and entomology classes.                                                                                                                                                                       (2013)

●       Awarded $250 from the Young Science Achievers Grant program to study “The Effect of Different Lights on the Phototrophy Rate of Pea Aphids”.                                                          (2012-13)

●       Winter Science Symposium at City College at New York “Lateral transfer of genes from fungi underlies carotenoid production in aphids”.                                                                           (2012)

●       Participant at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University open house.                                                                                                                                                                       (2012)

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For any questions about the research topic, please contact Ms. Chan at asrchan@yahoo.com

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