This combination of classes will immerse students in experiential activities helping them to understand the diversity, distribution, function, and interactions of plants, fungi, bacteria and other microbes. Over the whole five weeks, there will be a significant amount of time spent in the field (with an emphasis on soil health analysis and fungal identification and ecology) and in the lab (allowing development of a range of different lab-based techniques such as microbial isolation and visualisation). Assignments across both classes will be highly complementary allowing students to develop scientific communication skills such as writing a research proposal and keeping a meticulous lab notebook. There will be opportunity for students to pursue individual interests within these classes.
Enrollment Requirements and Options:
Courses are integrated co-requisites with simultaneous enrollment required. Students in this pod can enroll in online courses, Senior Year Research Project, or Independent Study work. TA-ing Soil, Plants, and Microbes II is possible with instructor permission.
This pod includes the following courses:
Fungal Ecology 4 cr
Fungi are not always obvious members of the communities surrounding us, but nevertheless they are an essential component of ecosystems in every corner of the Earth. This Fungal Ecology course acts as a general survey of the diversity of life-forms in the Fungal Kingdom, of fungal roles in ecosystem functioning, and of diverse human uses of fungi. More specifically, students will be introduced to the anatomy, diversity and taxonomic classification system of fungi, and to three key roles that fungi have in ecosystem functioning: decayers (saprotrophs), pathogens/parasites, and symbionts to primary producers (lichen and mycorrhiza). Practical techniques commonly used for investigating fungi will also be taught, including techniques for aiding mushroom identification, examining mycorrhizal colonization of roots, and inoculating agar plates to culture fungi in the lab. Finally, a broad range of uses that fungi serve to humans will be examined.
Soil, Plants, Microbes II 4 cr
Through this course, the students will acquire a deep understanding and appreciation for the myriad of interactions between plants and microbes in a variety of habitats, with a strong focus on the soil environment. Students will be introduced to how plants and microbes respond and adapt to their environment, both immediately and in the long-term with an emphasis on stress response. The role of soils as a way to create resilience and minimize stress in ecosystems will also be explored. This class will provide students with hands-on field and laboratory techniques for use in the study of soils, microbial life, and plant health. Students will engage in writing their own research proposal using primary literature to explore novel ideas.