Monday, July 12, 2010

Liz Lab Update

Things have been a bit slow moving in the lab at the beginning of this week. Turns out MBD (the company funding much of the research) has delays with getting the correct equipment to the lab in order for the research to be done. So meetings were held all day today in order to update the company on what experiments have been finished. You can see how this was one of the more frustrating days for everyone.
So what did I do?

I had a chat with Stan and we came up with some wonderful ideas on how to take some of this stuff into my classroom!
I would love to look at samples from benthic (bottom) sediments in marine and fresh water environments both in Australia and around NYC! Stan says that although there are dinoflagellates that will be specific to each region, but there are other species that are pretty much ubiquitous. I can’t wait to collect the NYC samples with some students.
dinoflagellates are micro-algae that have two flagellae to help them get around!

Using these dinoflagellates I can investigate some key points in the curriculum back home. Thus far I would like to use them discussing:

Earth’s Early Atmosphere – These cyano-bacteria are what was responsible for supplying all of the oxygen in the seas and atmosphere millions of years ago. I want to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide levels throughout the culture growth to show how during the day, dinoflagellates make oxygen!

Evolution of Land Plants - Both dinoflagellates and plants use photosynthesis to create energy for themselves. I would like to introduce the idea of evolution and how initially only these micro-organisms from the sea photosynthesized. Eventually after millions of years, plants use the same processes on land. Where is the link? I think this would be a great way to start off this unit in class.

So while the important people worry about MBD funding, tomorrow I will be growing the micro-algae and culturing it. Stan and I will be working together the next two days on how to take the super-science-y methods using autoclaves and laminar flow tables and making them work in the classroom. Once cultured, keeping the micro-algae alive long enough to do the experiments that we want to might be quite the task. Here at the lab, an entirely new culture is grown every two weeks! And that is necessary to do any test whatsoever on these little guys. I wonder what will be necessary back at the Manhattan East lab?

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