1887

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: [email protected]
    • 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 MT 2001 Photosynthetic and phylogenetic primers for detection of anoxygenic phototrophs in natural environments Appl Environ Microbiol 67 2922 2926 10.1128/AEM.67.7.2922-2926.2001 11425703 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AEM.67.7.2922-2926.2001
2. Awramik SM 1992 The history and significance of stromatolites 435 449 Schildlowski M Early organic evolution: impacts of mineral and energy resources Springer Verlag Berlin, 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 PT 2005 Community structure, geochemical characteristics and mineralogy of a hypersaline microbial mat, Cabo Rojo, PR Geomicrobiol J 22 269 281 10.1080/01490450500182672 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01490450500182672
4. Chacon E, Berrendero E, Garcia-Pichel F 2005 Biogeological signatures of microboring cyano-bacterial communities in marine carbonates in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico Sedimentary Geol 185 215 228 10.1016/j.sedgeo.2005.12.014 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sedgeo.2005.12.014
5. Ehrlich HL 1999 Microbes as geologic agents: their role in mineral formation Geomicrob J 16 135 153 10.1080/014904599270659 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/014904599270659
6. Francek M 2006 Promoting discussion in the science classroom using Gallery Walks J Coll Sci Teaching 37 27 31
7. Hallam SJ, Girguis PR, Preston CM, Richardson PM, Delong EF 2003 Identification of methyl coenzyme M reductase A ( mcrA) genes associated with methane-oxidizing Archaea Appl. Environ. Microbiol 69 5483 5491 10.1128/AEM.69.9.5483-5491.2003 12957937 194966 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AEM.69.9.5483-5491.2003
8. Janse I, Meima M, Kardinaal WEA, Zwart G 2003 High resolution differentiation of cyanobacteria by using rRNA-internal transcribed spacer denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis Appl Environ Microbiol 69 6634 6643 10.1128/AEM.69.11.6634-6643.2003 14602623 262283 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AEM.69.11.6634-6643.2003
9. Jørgensen BB 2001 Space for hydrogen Nature 412 286 289 10.1038/35085676 11460146 http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/35085676
10. Marzano RJ 2001 Designing a new taxonomy of educational objectives 215 228 Corwin Press Inc Thousand Oaks, Calif
11. Levis-Fitzgerald M, Denson N, Kerfeld CA 2005 Undergraduate students conducting research in the life sciences: opportunities for connected learning 2 3 Levis-Fitzgerald M Paper in the Association for the Study of Higher Education 30th Annual Conference Association for the Study of Higher Education East 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 DJ 2000 The role of microbes in the accretion, lamination and early lithification of modern marine stromatolites Nature 406 989 992 10.1038/35023158 10984051 http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/35023158
13. Sowers KR, Watts JEM 2006 The study of strictly anaerobic organisms 739 764 Rainey FA, Oren A Methods in microbiology—extremophiles Elsevier Academic Press Oxford, United Kingdom
14. Visscher PT, Baumgartner LK, Buckley DH, Rogers DR, Hogan ME, Raleigh CD, Turk KA, Des Marais DJ 2003 Dimethyl sulfide and methanethiol formation in microbial mats: potential pathways for biogenic signatures Appl. Environ. Microbiol 5 296 308

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2007-05-17
2019-04-20

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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