Lesson 4: Microbial ecosystems

What does a microbial ecosystem look like?

Students continue their exploration of microbes by looking at how microbes interact with each other to form ecosystems. Students first discuss traditional food webs and ecosystems and then transfer that discussion to a microbial ecosystem contained in a jar, a Winogradsky column. Students create a model of nutrient cycling in the Winogradsky column and use their model to predict and explain different aspects of the ecosystem such as how perturbations to the system influence microbial populations. The lesson strives to alter students’ perception of what makes up an ecosystem, introduce metabolic diversity of microbes, and explore interdependence of populations.

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