Team:Consort Alberta/humanpractices


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Human Practices

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Human Practices

Introduction      Community Outreach


School Involvement     Interviews





     Over the iGEM season, we have been focusing on community outreach. We've been striving to educate, enlighten, and engage individuals and groups in our community concerning the matter of genetic engineering and synthetic biology. In order to achieve this goal, we have done several formal presentation to the members of the PLRD school board and our school administrators, and the Consort Lion Club, from which we are still receiving many positive comments. Several of our senior members created this presentation specifically to introduce the basic premises of synthetic biology, our project and techniques/procedures used. We have shown elementary students a similar presentation and we advocate iGEM in our school. We specifically target students entering senior high who may be interested in joining the team next year. In addition, we've promoted iGEM through our local newspaper, the Consort Enterprise, by having several articles, photos, and updates put in for subscriptions across Alberta and even across Canada to see. These articles explain our project, how we are doing thus far, and the Jamboree while encouraging support, involvement, and interest in our team. Furthermore, we have had several discussions with key members of our economy concerning potential implementations, uses, and improvements to our project. While giving presentations, talking with students, conducting interviews, or casually visiting in the grocery store, our initiative has been praised and our work received with fascination.


Community Outreach...

    Our presentations to community groups this year have included the Consort Lions Club, the PLRD School Board, and the Veteran Lions Club. To keep our community updated and let people know what we have going on in the science lab, every workshop or event that we do goes into our local newspaper, the Consort Enterprise. Many articles and photos over the past year have gone through the paper, and so there have been many people that have read up on the articles and become more aware of iGEM and how our team is progressing. One of the issues here is the December 2013 edition regarding the starting up of this year's project and highlighting what we are in progress of doing.



School Involvement...

    This year, for our school involvement, we have made presentations to our younger students at our monthly assemblies, explaining the science of synthetic biology and our project in the hopes that it will inspire them to pursue the sciences and join our project when they are older. We have also done a more elaborate and descriptive presentation to the Grade 9 class, explaining more about the concepts of synthetic biology and our project. Our older members and adviser held a presentation early in the year to the school board and the administrators, explaining to them our project and their amazing experience in Boston. They were very impressed with our project, and our school and students are standing behind us in full support.


    We wanted to have a better idea of how we should develop our project into something that the average person, an oil worker, could use. So we decided to conduct interviews with a few members of our community and get their perspectives on our project, and see if other people thought it could be useful. We would like to thank Elaine Devine, David Bruha, and Lacey Ryan for allowing us to interview them. They gave us very valuable tips, and each had a unique approach to the project - Elaine being a key role in the local oil industry, David being a rural community member who sees many projects through the newspaper, and Lacey being an agronomist and a farmer herself.

Elaine Devine - Partner owner of the major oil company T&E Pumps. Elaine gracefully agreed to meet with us and discuss the practicality portion of our project. Elaine was widely impressed with the work we are doing and the dedication of both students and supervisors. After briefly mentioning potential uses for our biobrick, Elaine brought up the idea for not only using the E. Coli as a way to test soil for xylene on a industrially level but also on an individual scale. General concern for the environment and future generations coupled with the fact that many farmers and ranchers have oil wells on their land led Elaine to suggested the use of the genetically modified E. Coli as a simple way for individuals to monitor the level of pollution in their soil. When asked if detecting trace amounts of xylene would be useful she responded with a resounding 'maybe!'. After bringing up the point that certain types and amounts of oil can actually be beneficial and act as fertilizer, she mentioned that the detection of trace amounts of xylene could allow a good option for the monitoring of the concentration of xylene over long periods of time.


David Bruha - Editor of the local newspaper, the Consort Enterprise. Dave gave the team his input about the aspects of potential individual and industrial use of our device, and finds that our project is very applicable to the community. "Anything that will help with the controversy that we sometimes see between agriculture and the oil industry will be very useful," Dave enthused. "Having the ability to detect contamination quickly and inexpensively would really help go a long ways towards a better relationship. If a product could be produced using this technology, it could be used not only in this area, but around the world wherever there's petrochemical development." Dave also elaborated on the importance of having an instantaneous acknowledgement of whether or not there is potential contamination. "Many of the small communities around rural Alberta are faced with underground storage tanks and potential contamination of the soil. This type of a product could quickly identify what people are dealing with when they dig up their streets and do regular maintenance. They could know right away what they were dealing with, rather than having to wait and wait for soil samples to be transported to the city and wait and wait for the lab results to come all the way back. Sometimes it can take weeks, but with this we could almost instantly know," Dave concluded.


Lacey Ryan - Agronomist & Animal Nutritionist for the Chinook Applied Research Association (CARA). Lacey offered her advice from a producer point of view, and explained what producers are looking for when using a means of detecting contamination. “The biggest thing with being producer friendly is cost. I’m a farmer as well; you have to make sure that is product, if developed, is either similar or lower in cost to the average lab test. A soil sample costs anywhere from $25-$150 depending on the lab. Most of the sample costs are $30. It’s not necessarily that it’s really expensive; it’s just that all the way out here, we can’t always just do a soil test.” Lacey then described that when a producer goes to buy previously used land or native prairie, the first questions they ask is if it is safe. “We want to know what’s on our land, especially if there are cattle. If a well site was reclaimed on the land, I know that almost all farmers would want to get it tested. This is a really neat idea, and it sounds like it could be really quick too. It usual takes a week to get results back by email but it depends on the lab. If you send it away Monday and your order is rushed, you could possibly get it back Friday, otherwise it’s even later, so it’s a really good to have a test right away on the site, and could really benefit producers.”