Topic- Oil- Degrading Bacteria
Title- Oil Be Seeing You
Developed at Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation Biology Institute,
by Elizabeth Burck, Peggy Deichstetter, Sue Draper and Su Ellen Silverman
– July 1999
Recommended grade level: 10-12
Courses- Biology, Microbiology, Environmental Science
Purpose- To determine the relationship between soil environments
and the activity of petroleum-degrading bacteria.
Skills/Knowledge stuents need prior to lab:
In order to fully participate in this activity, the student should:
possess a working knowledge of bacteria ( know that they are microscopic,
cause decomposition, and are found everywhere.)
be able to measure accurately using a graduated cylinder and measuring
know that bacterial growth can be detected in two ways in this lab:
1) the medium in which it grows can become “cloudy” or turbid as the population
of bacteria increases, and 2) the degradation of the mothball indicates
that the bacteria are “eating” it as a carbon source.
have some appreciation of the environmental impact created by to oil spills.
This might include a local scenario or a highly publicized spill
such as the Exxon Valdez. Much information on the latter is available
in literature and on the Internet.
5-clear,covered experimental containers (125ml minimum)
5- volume-measuring containers
4- 10 ml. Pipettes and pipette pumps
4 collection bottles
Clear metric ruler
30 ml. Nutrient broth, Miracle-gro or dissolved chicken bouillon cube
Lysol or 10% bleach solution
Teachers should carefully read and follow all product warnings on the label
of the mothball box.
Teachers should obtain and file an MSDS sheet on naphthalene as per OSHA
Data collection must respect the harmful nature of the mothballs (naphthalene).
It is for this reason that the recommended data collection and analysis
method is not highly quantitative. Students should not handle the
To insure data consistency under these conditions, be sure to use the same
measuring device (plastic measuring tape) and, in addition, have the same
person do all the measurements.
The turbidity of the growth medium can be used for purposes of evaluation
of bacterial growth. Increased turbidity indicates bacterial growth.
Oil degraders are aerobic. Always insure oxygen availability.
Due to the inquiry nature of this lab, students will need additional time
to formulate methodologies and perform investigations.
This activity requires large numbers of containers. Students can
provide containers, provided they are clean and clear plastic or glass.
Survey local service stations to determine their methods of oil disposal.
Take a field trip to an oil refinery.
Do an internet search on applications of bioremediation.
Isolate and identify microbes from cultures. (Advanced)
Atlas/Bartha, Microbial Ecology Fundamentals and Applications.
Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Co. Inc., 1998
Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation
CN 5281, Princeton NJ 08543-5281 - Tel:(609)452-7007
Technical contact: email@example.com