Bioprospecting for Cellulose-Degrading Microbes: Filter Paper Assay Method

Bioprospecting for Cellulose-Degrading Microbes: Filter Paper Assay Method

Students collect samples that they predict will contain communities of cellulose-degrading microbes and test for the ability of microorganisms in their samples to break down pure cellulose (filter paper). In the process, groups collect evidence to test predictions about which environmental microbial samples will be the most effective for degrading cellulose. By comparing results across groups, students can begin to uncover patterns and develop explanations about the types of environments that support cellulose-degrading microbes. This lab method is nearly identical to that used by GLBRC researchers and student results could help scientists discover new enzymes for efficient biofuel production.

Grade Level Middle School through Undergraduate (6-16)
Subjects Science, Agriculture, Engineering, Biotechnology, Biology, Environmental Science
Resource Type Investigation
Concepts/Skills decomposition, respiration, biomolecules, enzymes, microbial ecology, data analysis, scientific argumentation
Time Required Five to seven 50-minute class periods over 12-18 days (can be adapted to shorter times)
Prior Knowledge Type of carbohydrates, basic cell wall structure, enzyme function, role of microorganisms in decomposition, matter and energy transformations
Required Supplies Test tubes, test tube shaker, filter paper, Miracle Gro fertilizer (see teacher instructions for details and supplier info.)
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Bioprospecting Package (.zip, 2.3 MB)
Includes: Includes: Teacher Instructions, Student Activities and Worksheets, Supplementary Materials

Videos

Bioprospecting and Biofuels: Connecting Classrooms with Energy Research
Bioenergy in the High School Classroom: Bioprospecting Lab
GLBRC Bioprospecting Lab Introduction
Biofuels and Bioprospecting for Beginners TED-Ed Video