The Chesapeake Bay is the largest, most productive estuary in the United States, providing habitat for some 2,700 species of plants and animals. The health of the Bay depends on maintaining this high level of biodiversity (the number and variety of species located within an ecosystem).
One way to measure biodiversity is to examine biofilm communities. Biofilms are bacterial colonies that form in layers. They can be found in many areas of the human body and in the environment. The interactive lessons that are part of Biofilms and Biodiversity are an excellent way to engage students in project-based learning.
In Maryland Sea Grant’s interactive lesson Biofilms and Biodiversity, you will evaluate biofilm communities grown on plexiglass discs suspended vertically in the Baltimore Inner Harbor water. The biofilm discs are periodically checked during different times of the year and observed for colonization and species diversity. As you progress through the unit, you will learn how to make your own biofilm rack, conduct your own biofilm experiment, and analyze data using the You’re the Expert calculator.
These communities are now being examined for the presence of microplastics and new methods are being tested for use in the classroom. A new Content Primer regarding microplastics is under development.
Partners in Europe are also examining biofilms and biodiversity in local harbors through the VIRTUE-s Project, and partners in South Carolina are developing a network through a program called BioDiscovery.
Download the Biofilms and Biodiversity lessons.