Learners from local high schools were invited to participate in mini-research projects hosted by various departments of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Pretoria. The aim of the program is to provide students with the opportunity to actively engage in real science, and experience the realities of the field. This year, researchers from the Centre for Microbial Ecology and Genomics (Pieter, Marc, Khoali, Andries, Riegardt, Sandra, Helen, Fiyin, Storme, Casper, Matthew and Percey) under the supervision of Dr Thulani Makhalanyane, supervised the students as representatives of the Genetics Department.
The students were charged with collecting and analyzing bacterial communities of three dams in Pretoria, namely Hartebeespoort, Roodeplaat, and Rietvlei Dam. These samples were filtered and metagenomic DNA was extracted. PCR amplifications were performed on the extracted DNA and community profiles were generated using Terminal-Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (T-RFLP). This allowed students to compare the bacterial community diversity and composition between the three dams. The findings were presented by the students to researchers from the Genetics Department and CMEG.
The sampling trip provided an opportunity for researchers and students to get to know one another through the exchange of witticisms, knowledge and a passion for science. Over the six-month project, the students encountered real scientific challenges and learned troubleshooting skills and resilience.