Identifying unknown specimens using predictive phylogenies for remote forensic education

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One significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for educators in forensic science was adapting what is traditionally a very applied field to a virtual learning environment. Because of this, science classes with a practical laboratory component had to implement significant adjustments to ensure that student learning objectives were still met, including practical elements. To provide learners with an alternative to a traditional lab exercise in forensic entomology, we designed an exercise to be conducted completely remotely to instruct students in how to identify a real unknown specimen using a hypothetical phylogenetic tree they create. Students retrieved data and make predictions using public databases, generate phylogenies based off sequence data, and finally determine the identity of the unknown sequence provided. This lab replacement exercise has been adapted to be accessible to learners from different academic levels and takes the length of one two-and-a-half-hour lab period to complete. Through creating this resource, we have been able to link molecular systematics to forensic education and provide learners who download this publicly available exercise insight into how forensic questions are answered.

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Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education

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