Frog PCR workshop


Blue-sided tree frog, Agalychnis Annae © Katie Garrett

Session Summary

Take a leap into a session about frog forensics! In this workshop, students will extract DNA from preserved frog specimens, formerly housed in the Manchester Museum Vivarium living amphibian collection, and carry out a PCR reaction in order to identify a “mystery frog”. This session introduces students to Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR as it is commonly known, which is a technique used to amplify, or “photocopy”, sequences of DNA. This is the first step in nearly all genetic work before DNA can be visualized or sequenced. The session then walks students through a case scenario set in the rainforests of Costa Rica where students find a “mystery frog” specimen, which can only be identified through a DNA comparison, facilitated by the PCR technique, between previously identified frogs and this unknown specimen. Students learn about valuable, universally used genetic techniques in the framework of zoology, ecology and environmental conservation, while learning about the genetic research carried out right here at the Manchester Museum Vivarium!

This is a brand new workshop which offers the unique opportunity to work with rare and endangered species of amphibians. As well as working in the state-of-the-art Stopford Lab facility, it features a visit to the Manchester Museum Vivarium itself where students will meet face to frog with the living versions of the rare preserved specimens featured in the laboratory portion of the workshop!

At A GlanceDSC_0464

Cost: £240

Duration: 5 Hours

Subject: Science

Level: KS4/5

Numbers: 20 max.

Adults: One adult per 15 students

Session Outcomes

  • Learn about the value of genetic work in environmental sciences, and the application of PCR and gel electrophoresis to basic conservation work in the laboratory
  • Collect DNA from rare and endangered preserved frog specimensDSC_9132.JPG
  • Use centrifuges to separate cells from a liquid suspension
  • Learn to accurately measure small volumes of liquid using a micropipette
  • Learn about the steps of PCR which include the function of DNA primers, TAQ polymerase, and the building blocks of DNA (nucleic acids and the double helix structure they create as the building blocks of life)
  • Visualize their DNA samples through the use of agarose gel electrophoresis and the associated DNA loading dye
  • Predict and interpret the pattern of DNA fragments on a gel, following gel electrophoresis in order to make a comparison between their known and unknown frog species, and identify their mystery species
  • Appreciate the importance of accuracy and reliability in experimental science, including the need for experimental controls
  • Gain insight into careers in sciences and ask questions about ways to pursue scientific research
  • Gain experience and confidence in working in a state-of-the-art university laboratory at the Stopford building

National Curriculum Links for KS4/5DSC_0505

  • Introduction and background on the structure and function of DNA
  • Understanding and evaluating experimental design.
  • Understanding how to use a wide range of experimental and practical
    instruments, equipment and techniques relating to DNA.
  • Separating biological compounds using electrophoresis
  • Making predictions based on evidence and interpreting resulting data
  • The use of scientific techniques in environmental conservation and zoology

Gallery Time

During this workshop students will visit our Live Animals gallery for a bespoke tour of our unique rare and endangered frogs- with an exclusive look at several species found exclusively behind-the-scenes!

If you are planning to spend time exploring other galleries at the Museum after your session please tell us this when you complete our “Make a Booking” form, below.

Make a Booking

If you are unsure whether this session would be suitable for your group, please speak with our bookings coordinator on 0161 275 2630 or email


Risk Assessment Form

Lab Session Risk Assessment Form

Campus Map: note that Stopford Labs are located in Building 79 on the campus map. For an interactive map please click here