Field Trip to Natural History Museum Offers A Lesson on Genetic Diversity

By Megana P. ‘20

 

Visiting the Sackler Lab in the American Museum of Natural History was an incredible experience not only because we were able to work in a professional lab setting, but also because we were able to apply the knowledge and methods that we learned in class to the greater concepts of lineage and evolution. Two of the most memorable applications were testing levels of salivary amylase in ourselves, and trying to figure out whether chimps are more genetically diverse than humans. For the first, we learned that our production of salivary amylase, an enzyme that breaks down starches into glucose, is heavily dependent on our ancestors. We received  individual results, and thought about how they could have been influenced by our ancestors and their diets -- though they also might've been influenced by the waffle truck on 88th Street. The results of the second lab were surprising to all of us. We used the method of gel electrophoresis to determine the genetic diversity of humans and chimps through the sizes of respective DNA fragments. As it turns out, chimps really are more genetically diverse than humans due to the fact that they've had a longer time to evolve. Overall, the trip was a success, and my classmates and I are incredibly grateful for the experience.