Bioprospecting for cellulose-degrading microbes

This is a long-term inquiry activity in which students investigate locations they believe harbor cellulose-digesting microbes, collect samples, isolate them on selective media, and screen them for cellulase activity. These novel microbes may be useful for the production of cellulosic ethanol. In the process they learn about plating techniques, serial dilutions, symbiotic relationships and enzyme specificity. Two methods are provided, one focusing on isolation of pure microbial strains, the other focusing on finding symbiotic communities of microbes.

Go To:

Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center
U.S. Department of Energy

Notes From Our Reviewers

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Plan on this activity taking more than 5-7 classes, not
including waiting time.

Fermentation in a Bag activity (CLEAN resource) would be good introduction as well as biofuel videos in CLEAN collection.

Review safety concerns before beginning this lab.

**Refer to page 11 of the student handouts for more information on choosing the Individual Isolate Approach or the Community Method, or both.