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Bioprospecting for cellulose-degrading microbes: Individual Isolate Method

Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, U.S. Department of Energy

This is a long-term inquiry activity in which students investigate locations they believe harbor cellulose-digesting microbes, collect samples, isolate them on selective media, and screen them for cellulase activity. These novel microbes may be useful for the production of cellulosic ethanol. In the process they learn about plating techniques, serial dilutions, symbiotic relationships and enzyme specificity. Two methods are provided, one focusing on isolation of pure microbial strains, the other focusing on finding symbiotic communities of microbes.
The companion activity is here: https://www.glbrc.org/outreach/educational-materials/bioprospecting-cellulose...

Activity takes about seven class periods. Additional materials required.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Short Demonstration/Experiment supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 2 Performance Expectations, 5 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 6 Cross Cutting Concepts, 7 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2d

Energy Literacy

Other materials addressing:
4.3 Fossil and bio fuels contain energy captured from sunlight.
Other materials addressing:
3.2 Food is a biofuel.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:D) Evaluating accuracy and reliability
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D) Evaluating accuracy and reliability.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
Other materials addressing:
E) Organizing information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:B) Changes in matter
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B) Changes in matter.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:C) Systems and connections
Other materials addressing:
C) Systems and connections.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:D) Flow of matter and energy
Other materials addressing:
D) Flow of matter and energy.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Plan on this activity taking more than 5-7 classes, not including waiting time.
  • Fermentation in a Bag activity (a CLEAN resource) would be good introduction as well as biofuel videos in CLEAN collection.
  • Review safety concerns before beginning this lab.
  • **Refer to page 11 of the student handouts for more information on choosing the individual isolate approach or the community method, or both.

About the Science

  • In this well-structured lab investigation, students explore the role of microbes in the production of cellulosic ethanol.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Well thought-out and scaffolded activity.
  • Includes: Teacher instructions and answer key, student activities and worksheet, supplementary materials.
  • Entire folder for the activity is in a zip file format. The folder contains an introduction, animations, PowerPoint slides, supplementary readings for students, worksheets, pre-assessments, and teacher instructions/answers.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Instructional materials are excellent.
  • Success in using this activity will depend on the teacher's background in microbiological techniques.
  • All materials and files are accessible and functional.
  • Requires many materials, although most high school labs would have access to have these materials.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN


Next Generation Science Standards See how this Short Demonstration/Experiment supports:

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