BIOMES = Biology of Indoor Organismal and Microbial Ecosystem Sustainability

This project has been mulled over for a couple of years and is starting in the summer of 2019. It is a mix of research and curriculum design combined with the possibility of citizen science collaboration in the future.

Image credit:
Wikimedia Commons by Navarras

The term biome has historically meant “a large, naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat.” Both temperature and precipitation are major determining factors for biome type. More recently, the term microbiome has been used to describe the community of microbes in a particular environment. Thus, the size of a biome can range from huge (think Sahara desert) to tiny (think worm droppings). Our goal will be to create artificial biomes that can be used for both experimental and practical purposes.

This project will begin as an engineering design problem where we will build suitable “BIOMES chambers” that will go on to house communities of organisms that will include earthworms, plants, and microbes from all domains of life. The research will evaluate sustainability of these ecosystems where the inputs are light and waste materials (worm food) and the outputs are plant products, rich soil, and an expanding worm population.

An important aspect of this research is that it will be appropriate for biology laboratory project-based curriculum. Topics such as ecology, biodiversity, soil chemistry, water and pH, cellular respiration, photosynthesis, cells/tissues/organisms, macromolecules, genetics, gene expression regulation, and more can be monitored by biology students in the BIOMES chambers.

Still to come: BIOMES chamber design, curriculum development, and data!