By Brian Rogan
Background & Curriculum
General Biology of the Column
The Sulfur Cycle
The Winogradsky Column as a Window on the Past
As an investigation that was part of a larger module, a Winogradsky Column was developed to culture a mixed flora of bacteria. A column was created and other additional
columns were started with differing conditions to determine the effects of bacterial growth. Extensions were developed to help expand the use of the Winogradsky Column as a teaching tool.
- construct a Winogradsky column
- identify the various bacteria that grow
- chronicle the communities that develop
- determine the biogeochemical cycles that exist and the bacteria associated with each part thus associating microbial and functional diversity.
Background and Curriculum
The Winogradsky Column is an exceptionally elegant lesson in understanding microbial ecology. It can be grown by anyone from middle to high
school but the real depth and breadth of its use would be most appreciated within the high school science curriculum; especially advanced classes.
As a study for biodiversity in the microbial world, this investigation is by far essential for a class to devote time towards studying. In a small tube filled with
soil and water, a complete ecosystem will develop, exhibit microbial succession over time and create numerous biogeochemical cycles that are essential to life on Earth. Students can create a unique
environment with slight variations on the “recipe” and soon have an inquiry project that could easily occupy the entire year.
With the simple extensions given, teachers can isolate and grow a number of the species found in the column and extend this column to a number of examples in the real world showing the relevance of this complex yet
deceptively simple lab.