ROCHESTER, NY—Visitors to Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code, the state-of-the-art exhibition about genomic science currently at the Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC), have just a few more weeks to explore the Genome Discovery Center—an exhibit-within-the-exhibit featuring specimens and stories from RMSC’s 1.2 million collection items. Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code closes Sunday, April 29, 2018.
Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code was conceived to celebrate the anniversaries of two landmark discoveries: the 10th anniversary of the completion of the Human Genome Project and the 60th anniversary of the discovery of DNA’s double helix. The interactive exhibition examines the complexities of the genome—the complete set of genetic material in each living organism.
RMSC’S GENOME DISCOVERY CENTER
Using specimens from RMSC’s own collections that showcase this area’s rich biodiversity, the Genome Discovery Center uncovers fascinating stories about early life forms, species facing extinction, even attempts to recreate a lost species. This exhibit-within-the-exhibit also helps visitors discover how RMSC’s 1.2 million collection items continue to help scientists gain new insights.
There are even four live geckos (also viewable from a gecko-cam at RMSC.org) and hands-on experiments and activities—such as DNA extraction—that bring genomic science to life. Plus, visitors can see an early DNA sequencer used right here in Rochester to study the genetics of endangered iguana species.
A sampling of the fascinating stories from the Genome Discovery Center:
Evidence Written in a Shell: New York’s freshwater mollusks first entered the state 18,000 years ago as the continental glaciers retreated, and worldwide fossil evidence indicates that the mollusk species is 400-500 million years old. For more than 100 years, scientists have studied freshwater mollusks found in our area’s lakes, rivers, and streams—often using shells from RMSC’s collections. Amazingly, some species have 13,000 more genes than humans.
The Disappearing Spruce Grouse: An historic resident of New York’s Adirondack Park, the spruce grouse is nearing extinction. The reason? The species’ genetic diversity is extremely low, threatening its very survival. DNA sequencing done in 2011—including on two 19th-century specimens from RMSC’s collection—led scientists to a surprising discovery: the bird’s genetic diversity only began decreasing significantly in 1975.
Back from the Dead: The passenger pigeon was the world’s most populous bird species before the 1850s, with more than three billion in the eastern United States and southern Canada alone. Over-hunting and habitat destruction took their toll, and the last individual bird died in 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo. Science may be on the verge of reversing the species’ extinction however—with a goal of reintroducing it into the wild—using DNA sequencing, cloning, and genetic engineering. RMSC has contributed genetic material from specimens in its collections to this project.
Creating Designer Pets: The family favorites in RMSC’s Genome Discovery Center are its four leopard geckos. With noticeably different colors, patterns, and activity level, the geckos demonstrate how vastly different both appearance and behavior can be within a single species. Although the genetic traits of a living thing are determined by its parents, this exhibit helps visitors understand how breeders use those traits to create designer pets: there are now literally hundreds of variations of leopard gecko colors and patterns.
Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code and related programming are free with regular museum admission: $15 adults, $14 seniors and college students with ID, $13 ages 3 to 18, free for children under 3 and RMSC members. For group reservations and rates, call 585.697.1942.
Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code was created by the Smithsonian Institution in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, and made possible in part by financial support secured by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. UR Medicine Wilmot Cancer Institute is the presenting sponsor.
Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC) includes the Science Museum, Strasenburgh Planetarium and Cumming Nature Center. Offering experiences at the Museum with more than 200 interactive exhibits, Planetarium with a 65-foot dome and Nature Center on 900 acres, the RMSC stimulates community interest in exploration. In addition, the more than 1.2 million RMSC collection items tell the story of Rochester’s past and present, including its rich history of innovation and invention. RMSC receives major funding from Monroe County, where it is one of the top three most visited attractions serving children and families. For more information about RMSC, visit https://rmsc.org. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.