Bryological Respiration and Photosynthetic Comparisons: a Case to Connect Virginia High School Students to Active Research (Lead PI: DorothyBelle Poli)

Bryological Respiration and Photosynthetic Comparisons: a Case to Connect Virginia High School Students to Active Research
Students Reached:>100 high school students
Lead Researcher:   Dr. DorothyBelle Poli, Roanoke College
Lead Teacher:Ms. Amy Chattin and Ms. Ashly Dowdy, Franklin County High School  

Dr. DorothyBelle Poli, of Roanoke College, worked with Ms. Amy Chatting and Ms. Ashly Dowdy, of Franklin County High School, to design class material and laboratory activities to study bryophyte respiration. Bryophytes are primitive non-vascular plants, such as mosses and liverworts, that can be found almost anywhere. Students took field trips to collect various bryophytes, and then used respirometers to measure their respiration rates under various conditions and between bryophyte species. Students also traveled to quarries to see how moss can be used for reclamation of these areas, and learned and conducted experiments studying photosynthesis.

Students also learned about the central dogma, designed experiments, and performed gel electrophoresis and protein concentration determinations to compare protein production levels between bryophyte species. The use of such molecular biology techniques was new to Franklin County High School and has continued since this program was introduced.

As part of this program, an iBook entitled “Using Bryophytes to Teach Biology” was produced. This iBook is a freely available, interactive, multimedia resource that guides students through bryophyte biology and the laboratory exercises used in this HOPES program. Two undergraduate volunteers from Roanoke College helped assemble this resource. This iBook was presented at two meetings, is being used in other outreach programs, and has been added to by members in the bryophyte research community.

Most students involved in this program were from low-income households. Students were engaged during in-class activities and related to the material, with 62% saying the science made more sense in context. Across all students, both in advanced and traditional science courses, test scores increased by 7% and scores increased by 5% on state level tests. One student presented their work at the NSF Teacher Workshop on Bryophytes in 2012. All students from the 2011 – 2012 and 2012 – 2013 academic years will be acknowledged in peer reviewed articles resulting from the research conducted through this program.

ASBMB HOPES funding was used to purchase power supplies, gel boxes, and gel drying systems for the molecular biology experiments comparing bryophyte speicies. Combined with previously available respirometers, all of these tools will enable future iterations of this program.