GLBRC Education & Outreach NewsletterNovember 2014
Fall Greetings!

Read below for news and updates related to our education and outreach activities over the last few months, including new education resources and research highlights.
Video: Fall Brings Harvest Season for GLBRC 
Switchgrass Biomass Harvest
Switchgrass Biomass Harvest at GLBRC Cropping Trials, WI
Check out this short video of GLBRC research staff harvesting switchgrass plots at the GLBRC bioenergy crop trials. Researchers harvest the standing biomass from the nine different model bioenergy cropping systems, including switchgrass, corn, miscanthus, and prairie. During the winter, the crop will be dried and weighed to compare the crop yields and potential energy production. The results of this research will be combined with data on biodiversity, soils, emissions and economics to evaluate and improve the sustainability of the cropping systems.
Entomology Detectives: Introducing GLBRC Research Stories for Students
Scientist tracks pest predation with in-field surveillance cameras.
"Someone or something has been attacking the waxworm larvae in local corn and grass fields. GLBRC Entomology detectives want to find out who is responsible and thank them for their service..." This short reading and accompanying worksheet offers a window into how GLBRC scientists investigate the insect populations in different crops and the services they provide to farmers. Reseach stories give students a window into the work of professional scientists and engineers while developing STEM and literacy skills. Read the story and accompanying classroom activity.
Based on teacher feedback, we've made a few updates to our Poker Chip Model of Global Carbon Pools and Fluxes
The updated activity includes an alternate version in which students model the size of global carbon pools with columns of scrap paper rather than poker chips.
The updates include:
  • An alternate version in which students used rolled columns of scrap paper to represent the size of carbon pools. This allows all pools to be modeled on the same scale.
  • A student worksheet and additional discussion questions. The questions guide students through identifying the main forms of carbon in each pool, the processes associated with fluxes and modeling activities for various climate change mitigation strategies.
  • Alignment with Next Generation Science Standards (Middle and H.S.)

Thanks to the teachers who provide ongoing feedback and suggestions for improvement with our classroom materials!  

In the News: Cellulose Conversion Lab Featured in
The Science Teacher

The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center's student lab activity, "Converting Cellulosic Biomass to Ethanol (CB2E)," appeared recently in an issue of The Science Teacher, a peer-reviewed practitioners' journal published by the National Science Teachers Association. In an article entitled "Cellulose Breakdown: Investigations into making liquid fuel from plant biomass," GLBRC education and outreach director, John Greenler, coordinator Leith Nye, and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation's outreach and education manager, Travis Tangen, describe a lab designed to engage students with the real world science of producing liquid fuel alternatives to fossil fuel-derived gasoline. Read more.

High school students wrestle with the sustainability challenges of making real-world decisions about biofuel agriculture while playing Fields of Fuel, an educational video game developed by WID researchers. Recently released online for use by educators and the public, Fields of Fuel encourages students to evaluate how competing factors such as environmental consequences, energy production and profits affect biofuel farming outcomes. Read more.

Upcoming Events & Professional Development Opportunities

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

Feb. 27-28

Related News, Events and Resources

Professional Development Opportunity in Climate Change Education


The Aldo Leopold Nature Center will be hosting a live webcast Q&A session with NASA climate experts. The online professional development opportunity for educators will investigate climate change impacts in the midwest over time and how to bring these concepts into the classroom.       


Bioenergy Technology Office (BETO) Virtual Science Fair for Students


The Bioenergy Technology Office (BETO) is hosting a national virtual science fair that engages 9th-12th grade students in learning about bioenergy and educating their peers. The students will research a bioenergy prompt and use that information to design a bioenergy-related infographic that will be evaluated by a panel of bioenergy experts. Winning infographics will be promoted nationally.


GLBRC Research: Projecting Pollinator Response to Bioenergy Production


New research explores how bees might respond to two contrasting bioenergy production scenarios: annual row crops such as corn or soybeans, and perennial grasslands such as switchgrass or diverse prairie. The projections are strikingly different - pollinators are expected to have a highly favorable response to grassland bioenergy production and an unfavorable reaction to increasing amounts of annual row crop production.


GLBRC Research: New Process Transforms Wood, Crop Waste into Valuable Chemicals


GLBRC scientists disclosed a new method to convert lignin, long considered a biomass waste product, into simple chemicals. The innovation is an important step toward replacing petroleum-based fuels and chemicals with biorenewable materials.


Related: Nation's Third Commercial-Scale Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Opens


The plant will produce cellulosic ethanol from non-edible corn stalks, stems, and leaves harvested within a 50-mile radius of the plant. The cellulosic ethanol produced at ABBK will be sold into the ethanol commodity market and used to fuel light-duty vehicles. The state-of-the-art facility will feature an electricity cogeneration component that will generate up to 21 megawatts of electricity - enough to power itself and provide excess clean, renewable power to the local community.


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