Decoding Nature

Students taking part in a Decoding Nature activity

At a glance

Students generate DNA sequencing data.

Type of activity: Residential field trips lasting from a few hours to a five-day stay

When? 2009 to 2016

Where? Dorset

School students collaborated with Museum scientists on their latest research, discovering science and nature through hands-on activities.

Inspiring the scientists of the future

Decoding Nature offered children of all ages the opportunity to participate in research led by scientists from the Museum.

Activities varied depending on the research question, but included:

  • species and habitat recording
  • collecting plants to create museum-quality specimens
  • extracting samples for DNA sequencing

The research focused on using DNA barcoding to identify species and understand species relationships. For an introduction to DNA barcoding go to the Barcode of Life website, an international collaboration that Decoding Nature contributed data to.

Students learned the skills needed to collaborate with scientists and produce research-quality data for scientific publications.

Read about one of the field trips in our blog.

Learning outcomes


  • produced research-quality scientific data and DNA sequences
  • experienced a variety of fieldwork techniques
  • gained insight into a career in science

We covered biological topics from Key Stages 2-4, Common Entrance and A-Level syllabuses.

Project team

  • Dr Della Hopkins, project manager
  • Dr Robert Dyer, molecular laboratory assistant
  • Dr Fred Rumsey, botanist
  • Dr Holger Thues, lichens curator
  • Jo Wilbraham, algae curator

Find out more about the Museum's science, society and skills activities.

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