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Introduction--Climate Change (1/19)

Around the world we can see the effects of climate change: stronger storms, droughts, shifting seasons, rising sea levels and endangered plant and animal species. Let's look at causes and some potential solutions to reduce the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Why is it good that we have a greenhouse effect on Earth?

Which would not be considered a fossil fuel?

Fossil fuels put what gas into the atmosphere?

What are some of the signs of climate change? Give at least three examples.

Green Energy Sources--Biofuel Debate (2/19)

Many scientists are working to develop new sources of energy that do not increase CO2 levels in the atmosphere. In addition to solar and wind energy scientists are working on developing new biofuels. This research engineer will explain a little about this alternative fuel source.

Are biofuels the perfect new energy source? Plants are a renewable resource. Plants can be produced around the world ending conflicts over oil and natural gas reserves. The burning of biofuels does not increase the CO2 in the atmosphere. But, there is growing concern that biofuels will contribute to world hunger by using food crops for biofuels and turning valuable agricultural land into fuel crop production.

Read this article to explore the issues involved in this debate.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Biofuels

What do you think is the most important advantage of developing new biofuels?

What do you think is the biggest disadvantage of using biofuels?

Green Solutions to Developing Biofuels (3/19)

From fish poop to rocket fuel! Dr. Bilal Bomani @NASA Glenn Research Center is trying to change the world. Check out his amazing ideas about clean energy.

What are Dr. Bomani's 3 "No-Nos" when creating biofuels?

What are the two things that the mollies (fish) like to do? Why were the fish introduced into the growing system?

How do you make fuel from a plant? (4/19)

First, what is a fossil fuel? Fossil fuels are derived from plants that died during the Carboniferous Period about 360 to 286 million years ago. The dead plants and algaes formed peat layers that were covered by sand, clay and minerals. Over the course of millions of years Earth processes of compression formed coal, oil and gas. Scientists are now working to find ways to obtain oils from living plants. Watch the video to see how we extract fuel from microalgae.

What molecule do fossil fuels put into the atmosphere that contributes to climate change?

Euglena a New Source of Jet Fuel (5/19)

Similar to the work with algae in Dr. Bomani's lab, a Japanese company thinks that a single celled organism called Euglena can help end the world's dependency on fossil fuels. The Euglena can process large amounts of CO2 gas in photosynthesis and their waste can be processed into jet fuel.

Watch this video about the Japanese company that is developing euglena as a biofuel. The Japanese company started with the idea of producing a highly nutritious food source, but has more recently started working on developing Euglena as jet fuel.

What questions do you have about using euglena as a biofuel?

What are the problems identified in the video of developing euglena as a jet fuel?

What are Euglena? (6/19)

The question you are going to consider with this lab is, Can methods be created to cultivate Euglena in large enough quantities to create a commercial supply of jet fuel? In order to answer the question of Euglena as a source of alternative energy, we need to learn something about Euglena.

The Euglena is a single celled organism that has behaviors that are like a plant in some circumstances and like an animal in different situations. Euglena's have been studied for years because of it's relationship to both plants and animals.

Let's take a closer look at the Euglena.


Single celled organisms have smaller parts called organelles. You could make an analogy to organs in a multicellular organism. Let's identify some of the important organelles in this picture of the Euglena. The long tail like structure at the top of this Euglena is called the Flagellum. This is how the organism moves. The green organelles of the Euglena are the chloroplasts. These are the organelles where photosynthesis takes place. The reddish area is the eye spot. This organelle senses light and will cause the Euglena to move to the optimal or best conditions for photosynthesis. The Euglena is very special. When it does not have enough light to produce energy through photosynthesis it can eat organisms in its environment. This process is called phagocytosis.

To practice identifying the Euglena organelles the Biology Corner website has a nice coloring sheet that will help you remember the different organelles. The Euglena Drawing

What do you observe about the Euglena pictured above that makes you think that this organism is a plant?

What structure do you observe that makes you think that this organism is an animal?

Euglena Behavior (7/19)

Since Euglena primarily photosynthesize to produce the food they need to grow and reproduce, they need access to light. Too much light, however, can cause damage to their internal structures.

You are going to design an investigation to see how Euglena respond to different intensities of light to see if you can determine what the optimal or best light intensity might be.

We will be working with living organisms. Not all living organisms respond to a stimulus such as light in exactly the same way. We will be looking for patterns in the way that the Euglena respond to the light and not looking to see that every single Euglena does the same thing. Think of how a flock of birds or a school of fish moves when they have an obstacle in front of them. We can see a pattern with all of the animals, but each individual bird or fish does not move in the exact same way.

Watch below to see a flock of birds.

Watch below to see a school of fish.

What will you use to measure how the Euglena respond to the light that you turn on?

Based on what you know about Euglena, what patterns in Euglena movement would you expect to see?

Claim, Evidence and Reasoning (8/19)

One challenge that scientists face is cultivating or growing Euglena in large enough quantities to produce biofuels. You are going to design your investigation testing how Euglena respond to different intensities of light by building a table of times and light intensities below.


When you hit "Run Experiment", your investigation will be run on a population of Euglena located in a lab at Stanford University in California. The lights will turn on and off at the intensities you decide, and the behavior of the Euglena will be recorded by taking pictures of them through a microscope. In the next step, you will be able to examine those pictures and see how the Euglena respond.

Before you begin your investigation make a prediction about how the Euglena will respond to the light. How will they move? What light intensities do you think will provide the best environment for the organisms? During your investigation you will gather evidence to support or refute your prediction. Finally, you will share your findings and make an argument for the best conditions to grow Euglena. You will provide reasoning that demonstrates how your evidence supports your prediction.

Claim: Write a sentence or short paragraph that describes what you think will happen to the Euglena when exposed to light?

Euglena Movement (9/19)

In order to make a scientific prediction about Euglena movement we need to see how Euglena move when they are not being exposed to intense light. Watch this clip of Euglena movement. [Ashley, please insert a clip of our Euglena moving here] What do you notice about how the Euglena behave? Do you see any patterns.

Design your experiment (10/19)

In the beginning, the lights will be off. To design your investigation you need to build the table by selecting a time when you want there to be a change and then selecting the light intensities that you would like. To learn more about each variable, click on the question mark icon mext to the variable. Your experiment can run for a maximum of 90 seconds. The "Estimate" button will estimate the amount of time that your experiment will take. When you click "Run", the investigation will run on the instruments located at Stanford University in California.

Experiments are run one at a time, so you are being placed in a line or queue to run yours. If you don't want to wait, you can log out and come back later. The video and images of the Euglena during your experimental time will be saved.

Phototaxis in Euglena
Time Point (sec.)
Top LED (%)
Right LED (%)
Bottom LED (%)
Left LED (%)
Before you run the experiment think about your experimental claim. Why did you pick this amount of time? Why did you pick this light intensity?

View your iLab Results (11/19)

By clicking the icons, you can examine how Euglena respond to the experiment you designed. You have video and photographs that you can examine.

What do you notice about Euglena responses to different light intensities?

Did the evidence you gathered in your experiment support your claim about how the Euglena would respond to the light? Why or Why not?

What does this tell you about the level of light they need?

If you were going to run the experiment again, would you make any changes to your experimental design? Why or why not?

Do you think that there are limitations to your investigation? If you were able to change the design of the investigation what is one variable or condition that you would change to help determine the best lighting conditions for the Euglena?

Additional Trials (12/19)

Now that you see how the instruments work and how the Euglena respond try running another experiment. This time you should run an experiment where you try to make the Euglena respond in the way that you think they should behave. What variable are you controlling to do this: time, light or intensity? Run multiple trials to verify your results.

Phototaxis in Euglena
Time Point (sec.)
Top LED (%)
Right LED (%)
Bottom LED (%)
Left LED (%)
View your results (13/19)

By clicking the icons, you can examine how Euglena respond to the experiment you designed. You have video and photographs that you can examine.

What is a Scientific Explanation? (14/19)

You will now answer the original question of this iLab: Can methods be created to cultivate Euglena in large enough quantities to create a commercial supply of jet fuel? Do you think that Euglena is a good option for the environment?

Let's discuss what scientists do with experimental results. To convince other people that you have conclusive evidence that explains something about the phenomenon you are investigating, you need to develop something called a scientific explanation.

Scientific explanations are very different from everyday explanations. In an everyday explanation, you can state the answer to a question and support your answer with an opinion that is not always based on facts or knowledge.

A scientific explanation is different because it is not based on opinion. Scientific explanations are answers to questions that are based on real data or information that can be used to prove if something is true or untrue. Scientists create explanations to answer their research questions and convince other scientists that their answers are correct.

Scientific explanations include the following:

Claim - a statement or conclusion that answers a question

Evidence - measurable scientific data that is both appropriate and sufficient to support the claim.

Reasoning - a justification that shows why the data can be used to support your claim.

Making a Claim (15/19)

The first step of creating a scientific explanation is to make a claim that answers your research question.

Take a look at an experiment below, and think about what the research can say about their results.

A researcher wants to know whether listening to different types of music when studying helps students get higher scores on their math tests. Students listen to classical, country, hip hop, or pop music while studying for a math test. In the control group, students do not listen to any music at all while they study. At the end of the experiment, students take their math test and the results show that students who listened to classical music got the highest scores on the math test out of all the groups.

What is a good example of a claim the researcher can make about her experiment?