Date: Wed Oct 27 10:04:04 1999
Posted By: Andrew D. Brabban, Faculty, Biology, The Evergreen State College
Area of science: Microbiology
You have a lot of scope is my first thought here. Although you do not have
an incubator most mesophiles such as E. coli that grow optimally at 37 oC
will grow well in the lab at 20-25 oC just more slowly. The most obvious
sphere to study however would be the environmental world where the ambient
temperature is cooler. Throughout this reply I will reference sites on the
web that have the lab write-ups that you would need.
These are some ideas and references. Probably one of the best places though
for information is to get a lab manual from a major textbook such as Brock
Biology of Microorganisms. These have a great variety of different lab
- One of the first labs I would do is to give the students a mixture of 2
unknowns. Tell them to separate the unknowns by streak plating and then try
to ID them using a variety of staining procedures with a bank of reference
slides. Stains to include would be Gram, Capsule, Endospore.
- Isolation from the environment. The isolation of Azotobacter and
Streptomyces from the environment is really fun and easy. Just use the
- Antibiotics and disinfectants. There is of course the classical
antibiotic disk method that is widely used. However, one
adaptation which works very well is the growth curve with ampicillin. Grow
up 2 flasks or E. coli to OD 0.4 and then amp (100ugml-1) to one. Amp
stops the cells forming a new septum but not growing. They increase in size till
they burst. You can follow this with OD, or what is really spectacular is
by wet mount microscopy. The cells grow really long then start to burst in
the next 10-15 min.
- Food Microbiology. E. coli in hamburger has become a major issue and
would be a good way of demonstrating why we need to cook meats and that
microrogansims are everywhere.
So in summary: Cover basic techniques in a problem solving way 1), apply to
the real world in food and ecosystem 3) and 4), and finally try to include
labs that demonstrate why things are 2).
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