‘Biodiversity’ and ‘DNA barcoding’ explained using only the thousand most common words

This is my contribution to the #upgoerfive meme in which we are challenged to use this text editor to ‘explain a complex topic using only the 1,000 most common English words’. Like many other contributors, I am writing about my work. Here goes…

‘Biodiversity’ and ‘DNA barcoding’ explained using only the thousand ten hundred (see?) most common words

We love animals and green things and we need them for food, houses, to make sick people better, to clean the air and water, to hold down the ground, to know things and to be happy outside. For all of these things, lots of different kinds of animals and green things are better than only a few kinds. So we’re scared because the animals and green things are not safe from some of the things we do, like when we cut trees down, put bad smells in the air, take good things out of the big water (or put bad things in) and make the air around our rock in space get hot too fast.

But how do we know about all the different kinds of animals and green things? And how do we know which places have the most kinds, and which of those need our help right away, and which can wait? To find out, we need to go outside and look at what lives where. The “what” part is really hard. We need to be able to look at different animals and green things and know their names so we can find them again in other places and other times (like after the air gets hot or after we cut down trees, or put new ones in the ground), and also so we can talk to each other about them.

Here’s the problem:

Knowing the names of the animals and green things is really, really hard! Only a few people know how to know them, not nearly enough to actually find out what lives where, and when. We need lots more people to help… we need YOUR help. But if you are not one of the few who already knows how to know the names of the animals and green things, you can’t help without learning how, and that takes too long and is also really hard, and you probably already have a lot of good things to do in your life.

So how about this?

The long stuff inside the cells of animals and green things is sort of like a name, but on the inside. We found out what this long stuff was in 1953, and then in 1977 we learned how to read it (it’s like a book with really long words made of only four letters), and in 2003 we learned that some of these words are always the same in the same kind of animal or green thing, but different in different kinds of animals or green things. So maybe, just maybe, instead of knowing how to know the names of animals and green things, we can read the long words on the inside of their cells. Then lots of people (like you) might be able help find out what animals and green things live where, and when, without having to learn how to know their names. You could just take little pieces of animals and green things off the ground, or out of the trees, air or water (when you are at home, or when you are visiting pretty places with lots of animals and green things) and then send them to the places where people know how to read the long words inside. Then we might finally have enough people to study what lives where, when, and try to make the different kinds of animals and green things safe from some of the things we do.

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2 thoughts on “‘Biodiversity’ and ‘DNA barcoding’ explained using only the thousand most common words

  1. Pingback: Fine Focus: Karen James - Microbiology Blog

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