Family Science Investigation: Winogradsky Columns
Self-sustaining life in a tube. Conditions similar to a nutrient rich lake. Microbes maintaining an environmental balance that keeps us alive. Winogradsky columns have been described in a variety of ways. Invented by Sergei Winogradsky in the 1800s, the Winogradsky column has been a useful tool in studying topics as important as the origin of life, the relationship of different bacterial populations to each other, and answering questions, such as “Is there life elsewhere in the Universe?” Provided with sources of carbon, sulfur, nitrogen, and phosphorus, and powered by sunlight, the bacterial populations in the column grow, interact, and separate into layers of color along gradients of oxygen and sulfur. The conclusions drawn from this tool are not only interesting, but relevant to 21st century astrobiology research.
In this class we will discover just what is taking place in these columns, biologically and chemically. The group will explore the three columns on display in the museum, as well as the tubes set up in the Micro World lab, view the column progression over time through photographs, and view micro-and macroscopically, some of the bacteria involved in these processes. Any participants who have set up their own column at home may bring them or a photo to share with the class as well as explain what ingredients were used in their column. Lastly, we will explore the NASA connection -- the NASA Astrobiology Institute, how their 21st century research explores the same concepts as this 1800s invention, and how robotic rovers fit into this. We may even be visited by an active robot.
Family Science Investigations programs offer families an opportunity to participate together in monthly science classes related to Museum research, including topics in ecology, paleontology, geology and biology. These classes are especially useful for homeschoolers looking for additional reinforcement to curriculum goals, or any family group that simply enjoys learning together!
Program Instructor: Christy Flint and Deb Bailey, Coordinators of the Micro World Investigate Lab
For more information contact Debbie Huston, scheduling coordinator, at 919.707.9840.