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Learning Geomicrobiology as a Team Using Microbial Mats, a Multidisciplinary Approach

    Authors: Carlos Rios-Velazquez1, Lilliam Casillas-Martinez2,*, Pieter T. Visscher3
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    Affiliations: 1: Biology Department, University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, Mayagüez Puerto Rico 00681; 2: Biology Department, University of Puerto Rico-Humacao, Humacao, Puerto Rico 00791; 3: Center for Integrative Geosciences, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut 06269
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 17 May 2007
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Biology Department, CUH Station, University of Puerto Rico-Humacao, Humacao, PR 00791. Tel. 787-850-0000 ext 9162, Fax. 787-850-9439, E-mail: l_casillas@uprh.edu
    • Copyright © 2007, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2007 vol. 8 no. 1 28-35. doi:10.1128/193578807X14285807315242
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    Abstract:

    Microbial mats are one of the best suited laminar organo-sedimentary ecosystems for students from different educational backgrounds to visualize the direct relationship between microbes and minerals. We have used tropical hypersaline microbial mats from Puerto Rico as educational tools to promote active learning of geomicrobiology introductory concepts for undergraduate students organized in multidisciplinary teams with biological and geological backgrounds. Besides field trips and independent research projects focused on microbial mats, four intensive workshops and one capstone activity were designed to expose students to the different geomicrobiology subdisciplines (microbiology, molecular biology, geology, and geochemistry). The teaching-learning process was assessed using pre- and posttests, group discussions, activities including Gallery Walks and exquisite cadaver’s, case studies, and focal interviews. While the posttest showed a significant difference in conceptual understanding, the Gallery Walk and the capstone activities demonstrated increase in the depth, coherence, and thoughtfulness in answering questions, including a clear integration of the different subdisciplines during their presentations. Finally, the main themes described by the students as important outcomes of their participation in the Research at Undergraduate Institutions: Microbial Observatory (RUI-MO) program were: (i) the opportunity to study and learn new and different science disciplines, (ii) the microbial mats were excellent tools to learn from and integrate different science disciplines, and (iii) working in multidisciplinary teams gave them the opportunity to learn from their peers’ discipline backgrounds. To our knowledge this is the first educational initiative that uses tropical hypersaline microbial mats to teach geomicrobiology in a multidisciplinary fashion.

References & Citations

1. Achenbach LA, Carey J, Madigan MT2001Photosynthetic and phylogenetic primers for detection of anoxygenic phototrophs in natural environmentsAppl Environ Microbiol672922292610.1128/AEM.67.7.2922-2926.200111425703 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AEM.67.7.2922-2926.2001
2. Awramik SM1992The history and significance of stromatolites435449 Schildlowski MEarly organic evolution: impacts of mineral and energy resourcesSpringer VerlagBerlin, Germany
3. Casillas-Martinez L, Gonzalez ML, Fuentes-Figeuroa Z, Catro CM, Nieves-Mendez D, Hernandez C, Ramirez W, Sytsma RE, Perez-Jimenez J, Visscher PT2005Community structure, geochemical characteristics and mineralogy of a hypersaline microbial mat, Cabo Rojo, PRGeomicrobiol J2226928110.1080/01490450500182672 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01490450500182672
4. Chacon E, Berrendero E, Garcia-Pichel F2005Biogeological signatures of microboring cyano-bacterial communities in marine carbonates in Cabo Rojo, Puerto RicoSedimentary Geol18521522810.1016/j.sedgeo.2005.12.014 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sedgeo.2005.12.014
5. Ehrlich HL1999Microbes as geologic agents: their role in mineral formationGeomicrob J1613515310.1080/014904599270659 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/014904599270659
6. Francek M2006Promoting discussion in the science classroom using Gallery WalksJ Coll Sci Teaching372731
7. Hallam SJ, Girguis PR, Preston CM, Richardson PM, Delong EF2003Identification of methyl coenzyme M reductase A (mcrA) genes associated with methane-oxidizing ArchaeaAppl. Environ. Microbiol695483549110.1128/AEM.69.9.5483-5491.200312957937194966 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AEM.69.9.5483-5491.2003
8. Janse I, Meima M, Kardinaal WEA, Zwart G2003High resolution differentiation of cyanobacteria by using rRNA-internal transcribed spacer denaturing gradient gel electrophoresisAppl Environ Microbiol696634664310.1128/AEM.69.11.6634-6643.200314602623262283 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AEM.69.11.6634-6643.2003
9. Jørgensen BB2001Space for hydrogenNature41228628910.1038/3508567611460146 http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/35085676
10. Marzano RJ2001Designing a new taxonomy of educational objectives215228Corwin Press IncThousand Oaks, Calif
11. Levis-Fitzgerald M, Denson N, Kerfeld CA2005Undergraduate students conducting research in the life sciences: opportunities for connected learning23 Levis-Fitzgerald MPaper in the Association for the Study of Higher Education 30th Annual ConferenceAssociation for the Study of Higher EducationEast Lansing, Mich
12. Reid RP, Visscher PT, Decho AW, Stolz J, Bebout BM, Macintyre IG, Paerl HW, Pinckney JL, Prufert-Bebout L, Steppe TF, DesMarais DJ2000The role of microbes in the accretion, lamination and early lithification of modern marine stromatolitesNature40698999210.1038/3502315810984051 http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/35023158
13. Sowers KR, Watts JEM2006The study of strictly anaerobic organisms739764 Rainey FA, Oren AMethods in microbiology—extremophilesElsevier Academic PressOxford, United Kingdom
14. Visscher PT, Baumgartner LK, Buckley DH, Rogers DR, Hogan ME, Raleigh CD, Turk KA, Des Marais DJ2003Dimethyl sulfide and methanethiol formation in microbial mats: potential pathways for biogenic signaturesAppl. Environ. Microbiol5296308
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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/193578807X14285807315242
2007-05-17
2017-09-23

Abstract:

Microbial mats are one of the best suited laminar organo-sedimentary ecosystems for students from different educational backgrounds to visualize the direct relationship between microbes and minerals. We have used tropical hypersaline microbial mats from Puerto Rico as educational tools to promote active learning of geomicrobiology introductory concepts for undergraduate students organized in multidisciplinary teams with biological and geological backgrounds. Besides field trips and independent research projects focused on microbial mats, four intensive workshops and one capstone activity were designed to expose students to the different geomicrobiology subdisciplines (microbiology, molecular biology, geology, and geochemistry). The teaching-learning process was assessed using pre- and posttests, group discussions, activities including Gallery Walks and exquisite cadaver’s, case studies, and focal interviews. While the posttest showed a significant difference in conceptual understanding, the Gallery Walk and the capstone activities demonstrated increase in the depth, coherence, and thoughtfulness in answering questions, including a clear integration of the different subdisciplines during their presentations. Finally, the main themes described by the students as important outcomes of their participation in the Research at Undergraduate Institutions: Microbial Observatory (RUI-MO) program were: (i) the opportunity to study and learn new and different science disciplines, (ii) the microbial mats were excellent tools to learn from and integrate different science disciplines, and (iii) working in multidisciplinary teams gave them the opportunity to learn from their peers’ discipline backgrounds. To our knowledge this is the first educational initiative that uses tropical hypersaline microbial mats to teach geomicrobiology in a multidisciplinary fashion.

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FIG. 1

Summary of the educational backgrounds of the Microbial Observatories program participants and the main workshops offered during 2005 and 2006. The letters M, G, and B represent students from microbiology and marine biology, geology and biology backgrounds respectively. Please note that microbial mats are the central educational tool of all the educational activities.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2007 vol. 8 no. 1 28-35. doi:10.1128/193578807X14285807315242
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FIG. 2

Box-and-whisker plot showing median of 15th and 25th percentile of positive responses in the pre- and posttests given during Workshop 2. Please notice the differences in the vertical lines indicating a more uniform distribution in the responses of the posttest.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2007 vol. 8 no. 1 28-35. doi:10.1128/193578807X14285807315242
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FIG. 3

Schematic of the poster presentation for case study 2 in which a multidisciplinary team described the communities and biogeochemical signatures expected from the microbial mats present in the Iron Mountain Mine, California. As assigned on the information sheet, the team divided their presentation into observations at the site, hypothesis, predictions, and tests to be conducted to prove the hypothesis.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2007 vol. 8 no. 1 28-35. doi:10.1128/193578807X14285807315242
Download as Powerpoint

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