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GLBRC Education & Outreach NewsletterAugust 2014
Summer Greetings!

Read below for news and updates related to our education and outreach activities over the last few months, including new education resources, summer workshops and research highlights.
Introducing Fields of Fuel Computer Game 

Check out our new computer game, Fields of Fuel, created in collaboration with UW-Madison computer scientists. In the game, students take on the role of farmers trying to sustainably grow bioenergy crops and balance economic, social, and environmental trade-offs. The game was designed to promote reasoning and critical discussion about the sustainability of complex systems. Fields of Fuel was designed primarily for high school and undergraduate courses in natural resources, environmental science, economics and agriculture. The game is free, can be played online with modern web browsers, and includes a single and multiplayer option. Play online or read more
We're please to announce that our CB2E: Converting Cellulosic Biomass to Ethanol lab sequence will be featured in an article in the September issue of The Science Teacher, NSTA's peer-reviewed journal for secondary science teachers. In the article Biomass Breakdown: Investigations into Making Liquid Fuel from Plant Biomass, we describe how students can investigate the process of making cellulosic biofuels and share experiences using the lab with high school chemistry students. We've also posted two new videos on the activity page introducing the lab to teachers.
Summer is the busiest time of year for GLBRC Education & Outreach as we run several summer professional development programs for educators and research experiences for students.
Exploring biofuels and the carbon cycle at the Bioenergy Institute for Educators.
Click the program links below to read more and see photo highlights.
  • Research Experience for Teachers: During the 7-week program, four teachers joined GLBRC research labs at UW-Madison and Michigan State University where they investigated biofuels research topics and drafted corresponding activities to bring back to their classes.
  • Bioenergy Institute for Educators: Middle and high school science educators spent 6 days at UW-Madison learning about current biofuels research and tools to engage students in this topic area.
  • Energy Institute for Educators: The Wisconsin Energy Institute and GLBRC hosted 16 science teachers at UW-Madison to learn about current energy research and approaches to teaching concepts related to energy, sustainability and climate change.
  • Research Experience for Undergraduates: GLBRC supported four undergraduate science students from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico conducting summer research in biofuels labs at UW-Madison.

Thanks to all of our participants and contributing researchers! All programs will be offered again in the summer of 2015. 

Measuring Soil Microbial Activity with BTB
BTB is a pH indicator that changes from blue to green to yellow in presence of CO2
We've updated the popular Measuring Soil Microbial Activity lab with a simple, new method of detecting differences in soil respiration rates. Bromothymol blue (or BTB) is a pH indicator that changes color from blue to green to yellow with higher concentrations of CO2. In the experiment above, a petri dish with BTB was placed in closed containers with 1) soil and sugar (left), 2) soil (center), and 3) no soil (right). After 24 hrs the different colors of the BTB indicate higher CO2 concentrations and higher soil respiration rates in the soil and sugar mixture as compared to the soil only container or control. This qualitative method of measuring CO2 can serve as a low-cost, easy alternative to using CO2 probes or acid-base titrations. Soil CO2 emissions are an important sustainability issue with bioenergy crop production. See activity package.
Upcoming Events & Professional Development Opportunities

For details on the events below and recaps of previous events, please visit our event blog.    

Oct. 11
Fermentation Fest,
Reedsburg, WI 

Oct. 18

GLBRC Research Highlights

Natalia de Leon Breeds Corn on the Cutting Edge of Biofuel Research 

Traveling across the American Midwest, where corn is both a major commodity and a prominent feature of the rural landscape, it's easy to take the corn plant for granted. Spend five minutes on the receiving end of plant breeder and geneticist Natalia de Leon's enthusiasm for corn, however, and you'll find yourself taking a closer look, absorbed in the complexities of a genetically diverse and high-yielding plant.
Read more

Fieldwork Season Nets Insects, Explores Bioenergy Crop Impacts

a lightly overcast morning in early June, Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) and UW-Madison entomologist Claudio Gratton's team of researchers and technicians file into a passenger van and head out for another day of gathering insects from the twenty native grassland sites that make up the team's outdoor summer laboratory. Once in the field, the group will trap and collect the bees, wasps, beetles, ants, lacewings, and stinkbugs whose brief but busy lives may influence how we create a sustainable future for bioenergy.
Read more

How Much Fertilizer Is Too Much for the Climate?

Helping farmers around the globe apply more precise amounts of nitrogen-based fertilizer can help combat climate change. In a new study published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Michigan State University researchers provide an improved prediction of nitrogen fertilizer's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural fields.
Read more

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We encourage you to visit our website at least once a month to look for new materials we have posted. http://www.glbrc.org/education 

Contact Information

Feel free to contact us with questions or feedback at education@glbrc.wisc.edu or 608-890-2828. If you know others who would like to be added to this list, please sign-up online.



GLBRC is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy