Glossary of Terms

Cell Poster
Allele(s)
Alternate forms of a gene or region of DNA. An example of alleles of a gene would be the gene for human blood types the different alleles (versions) of this gene give rise to the A, B and O blood types (AB blood type occurs when an individual has one A allele and one B allele).
Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphisms (AFLP)
A genome survey technique to detect polymorphic regions in DNA (regions of the DNA that have at least two alleles).
Aquaculture
The farming of plants or animals that live in water.
Aquatic invertebrates
An invertebrate is an animal that lacks a backbone. An aquatic invertebrate is an invertebrate that lives in water. Examples of aquatic invertebrates include mussels, clams, coral, sponges and marine worms.
Biodiversity
The amount of variation (number and variety) in the organisms found in an ecosystem.
Breeding program
Refers to the planned breeding of organisms (animals or plants) over several generations and does not include direct changes to the organism's genes (or DNA). This type of breeding is usually done to get offspring with more desirable traits.
DNA
Refers to Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid. This nucleic acid acts as the information storage molecule in the cell. DNA forms a double stranded helix with the basic unit of DNA being the nucleotide. In DNA the nucleotides are A (Adenosine), C (Cytosine), G (Guanine) and T (Thymine). The information in DNA is stored as a series of the four nucleotides in specific order.
Ecosystem
An ecosystem includes all the organisms and their environment in a given area.
Gene Expression
The DNA in a cell is the information storage molecule in the cell. Gene expression refers to which, when and how many of the genes are used in a cell at one time Gene expression also looks at how much a gene is being used as well as which cells/organs the gene is being used in. For example, fundamentally what makes a liver cell different from a muscle cell is which genes (parts of the DNA) are expressed (or read) in each of the cells. We can look at which genes are expressed in different cells, under different conditions and in different individuals.
Genes
Genes are the basic units of heredity and consist of a long stretch of DNA. Heredity refers to the passing of traits from parent to offspring.
Genetic engineering
Is the process by which the genes of an organism are directly changed.
Genomics
Refers to the study of genomes. The genome is the entire DNA within a cell.
Hemolymph
The equivalent of blood in some invertebrates.
Inbreeding
Occurs when closely related individuals reproduce.
Loci
Plural of locus. A locus is a region in the genome. The size of the region (from a single base up to thousands of bases) depends on the context in which the term is being used.
Metagenomics
The study of the collection of microbial genomes. Metagenomics does not require that we be able to culture the microorganism in the lab.
Microbial Ecology
The study of the interactions between microorganisms and their interaction with their environment in an ecosystem.
Microorganism
Organisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye, they require a microscope to be visible. The term includes bacteria, viruses, protozoa, fungi and algae.
Microsatellite (also known as Short Sequence Repeat (SSR))
A series of tandemly repeated bases in DNA. Each repeat unit is between 2 and 6 bases long. Microsatellites tend to be highly polymorphic (have a lot of alleles). GTGTGTGTGTGTGTGT would be an example of a microsatellite, with the repeat unit being 2 bases long (GT) and the microsatellite being 8 repeat units long.
RNA
Refers to Ribose Nucleic Acid. While the DNA in a cell is the information storage molecule, the RNA is the workhorse nucleic acid. To make use of the information from the DNA, the cell makes an RNA copy that is then use by the cell. RNA is similar to DNA but has some structural differences. RNA is usually single stranded with the basic unit of RNA being the nucleotide. In RNA the nucleotides are A (Adenosine), C (Cytosine), G (Guanine) and U (Uracil) and the nucleotides in RNA differ in composition from those in DNA. There are different types of RNA depending on the job they are doing in the cell. Messenger RNA (mRNA) is used to make protein, ribosomal RNA (rRNA).
Species
The species is the lowest level of classification of organisms (from largest to smallest grouping: Domain → Kingdom → Phylum → Class → Order → Family → Genus → Species). There is no absolute definition of a species, in general, a species is defined as a group of organisms that breed and produce fertile offpring.
Vertebrates
A vertebrate is an animal with a backbone. An aquatic vertebrate lives in water. Examples of aquatic vertebrates include fish, sharks and whales.