Christiana Ntim

Toms River Regional Schools student Christiana Ntim will be looking at the frequency of Wolbachia and West Nile in mosquito samples from Ocean County as part of her Authentic Science Research studies and a grant-funded program. Christiana will be collaborating with Bordenstein Lab at Vanderbilt University and students in Israel as a part of the BIO-RESEARCH ON THE NETWORK program in Israel. ASR Director Christine Girtain and Dr. Pirchi Waksman from Bar-Ilan University in Israel met while being trained at UMASS Amherst this summer while doing biotech training with MassBioEd.

Ocean County Mosquito Commission, Vanderbilt University Assist With Project Earned Through Sustainable Jersey for Schools, NJEA

Toms River Regional Schools Authentic Science Research students and Israeli students will be collaborating and sharing data on the frequency of Wolbachia bacteria in their respective local mosquito populations.

Director of Authentic Science Research (ASR) Christine Girtain led ASR students and STEAM Academy students from TRRS in a three-day summer workshop to learn biotech skills while studying Wolbachia. The workshop was funded by a grant from the New Jersey Education Association and Sustainable Jersey for Schools.

“I feel it is important to engage students in collaboration investigating sustainable solutions to real world problems,” said Girtain. “Students who engage in early exposure to biotech lab skills and national and international partnerships increase their chances of having successful careers in STEM.”

Wolbachia is a bacterium that lives within arthropods (insects, spiders, crustaceans) and filarial nematodes. The bacterium has created symbiotic relationships with the organisms that are either parasitic or commensal in nature. When male mosquitos infected with Wolbachia mate with female mosquitos that are not infected, a high percentage of the eggs do not hatch. Infected female mosquitoes are unable to pass on Dengue Fever or Zika to humans. Scientists have successfully released Wolbachia infected mosquitoes in Townsville, Queensland, Australia, eliminating dengue in Townsville for the first time. The town averages 13 Dengue cases a year and has not had any cases of Dengue since the Wolbachia release.

Jessica Keen and Mike Senyk from the Ocean County Mosquito Commission supplied mosquito samples collected from multiple sites in Ocean County. They taught the students how to determine the species of each of the mosquito samples and discussed sustainable practices for controlling mosquito populations in NJ.

Students isolated DNA sequences from Ocean County mosquitoes. Christiana Ntim (ASR) and Julian Saar (STEAM Academy) found evidence that one of their mosquito samples was infected with Wolbachia.

Bio-research is a research project that combines the study of biology and the acquisition of 21st century skills of cooperative learning, internet-based technological tools and a virtual learning platform.

In Bio-research, students of an Israeli school (11th-12th grade) and students from schools abroad will collaborate in their research, guided by their respective biology/research teacher. For the Israeli students this research is a component in their advanced level matriculation. For the Toms River students it is a part of their Authentic Science Research course.

The main objectives of the project are the development of different skills such as the ability to investigate and understand a biological problem, critical and creative thinking, cooperative learning between students and teachers, learning during the inquiry process.

The virtual learning platform is used to build a learning community of teachers and students over the web. Teams will summarize their findings and conclusions in a scientific poster. An oral examination via video conference will take place at the end of the project.


Toms River Regional Schools ASR students have isolated DNA sequences from Ocean County mosquitoes. Pictured left to right are Somyia Elbready, Ashley Ababio, Josh Girtain, and Olivia Duell.


Wolbachia is represented by the light white band measuring 438 base pairs in inthe IN1 lane of the gel. The 708bp band indicates the DNA sample was from an insect.