DNA Day 2015

By Mike Spear, Director of Corporate Communications at Genome Alberta

Consider this post both a belated thank you and an update on a day to mark the unveiling of the structure of DNA.

Scientists knew DNA existed as early as the 1860's, and by 1944 there was scientific evidence that DNA was fundamental to the transfer of genetic information. As the story goes, James Watson and Francis Crick walked into a favourite watering hole for Cambridge scientists in early 1953 and told everyone in The Eagle that they had discovered the 'secret of life' (that is the story!). In the April 1953 issue of Nature magazine, they expanded on that pub boast and showed that DNA was a double helix structure, and that the two strands worked together to create identical copies of itself. Rosalind Franklin was also a key scientist in the discovery, but her work has been underplayed for years, so it was Watson and Crick who got the publication headlines.

So, every year we note DNA Day as close to the actual April 25th publication date as we can, by spending the day in the digital realm talking about DNA, and its role in the biology of all living things. The online day of awareness looks at how the science can be used to understand disease and how traits are reflected in an organism. We also dig into the ethical issues raised by this leading edge science that affects health, medicine, agriculture, and the environment.

This year's event was on April 21st and as usual Calgary-based Genome Alberta and the national science outreach organization, Let's Talk Science, led the way. This year we had some extra help from our neighbours down the hall, Cybera. DNA Day includes online text based chat rooms so that schools with low internet bandwidth resources can talk to some of Canada's leading geneticists. We also do a Google video Hangout and that's where Cybera helped us out this year. Live streaming video is pretty common on the internet, but to do a top presentation, you need a good camera, good bandwidth, and a room setup to give you the best possible conditions for quality audio and video. Cybera just happens to have all that down the hall from our Genome Alberta office.

With Cybera'€™s facilities and expertise, we had well known science broadcaster, Jay Ingram, host the hangout. The hangout went as planned, we got the word out to classrooms across Canada, and the result was a professional looking broadcast.

Jay and Francois 2 620x

Jay Ingram and Francois Bernier doing a webcast on DNA Day

Feel free to watch the video and learn about DNA, and as an added bonus, get a feel for a good science broadcast event: http://letstalkdna.ca/

Thanks to everyone involved in making the day a success and here'€™s a final thought:

As we were making preparations for DNA Day, Canada's Parliament was passing a bill for an official fiddling day in Canada. I love good fiddle music, but we hope by next year to have our elected officials giving some official thought to noting the importance of science and Canada's contribution to understanding our genetic makeup.