Students take to La Trobe University labs as part of their VCE Biology studies

The little flies you find hanging around your glass of Shiraz or fruit bowl are the stars of the show this week during high school study sessions being held at La Trobe University.

Wodonga SSC students Bobi Jones and Llewellyn Visser discuss the La Trobe University outreach program for their VCE Biology studies

Associate professor Susan Lawler is hosting almost 300 students from across the North East this week to support their VCE Biology studies.

It was Wodonga Senior Secondary School’s turn on Tuesday to put the Drosophila under the microscope.

“It’s a tiny little fly that’s used by geneticists to look at genes,” Dr Lawler said.

“What these guys eat is rotting fruit and they’re after the yeast – wineries and breweries are often having to manage them.”

Dr Lawler said the students were shown how to put the flies to sleep, identify the males from females and those with and without mutations.

“Then we give them a vile that is the children of the two and they’ll look at how many have wings and how many don’t,” she said.

“It gives them an idea of the principles of inheritance.” Year 11 student McCalie-Jayne Dohrmann, 16, said it was interesting to use the university’s equipment.

“This is the data we’ll use later on to lead into a topic on genetics,” she said.

“We’ve been able to identify the different types of fly.

“It’s a good opportunity to see what it’s like in an actual lab.”

Dr Lawler said the outreach program had run for a decade.

“A lot of the schools that really value this program are the smaller country schools that don’t have the equipment,” she said.

“Given they’re being taught the concepts, doing it in person in a real lab helps them learn and then remember.”