Wolbachia pipientis is a symbiotic bacterium that lives within the cells of filarial nematodes and about 40 percent of the world’s arthropods, including insects, spiders, mites, and crustaceans. It passes from mother to offspring and, in arthropods, is generally associated with host reproductive manipulations such as male killing, feminization, parthenogenesis, and cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI). In research labs, Wolbachia is a model organism to study animal-microbe interactions, evolution, genetics, ecology, and human health.
About Discover the Microbes Within! The Wolbachia Project
Discover the Microbes Within! The Wolbachia Project empowers biology educators to bring real-world scientific research into the classroom with inquiry, discovery, biotechnology, and a culture of excellence. Teachers and students will engage in hands-on research and contribute to the collection of scientific data within the Wolbachia research community. Through this immersive lab series, students will discover arthropod species in their local fauna; obtain DNA sequences of potentially new genetic strains of Wolbachia; and determine the evolutionary relatedness of these Wolbachia strains to other sequences published by scientists in the NCBI national genetic database.
The four core goals of this initiative are:
- Engage students in nature and real-world research
- Encourage nationwide participation in the collection of new scientific data on bacterial endosymbionts (Wolbachia)
- Enhance student interest in science through an integrative lab series spanning biodiversity to molecular biology
- Give students an idea of what it’s like to be a scientist.
More information about the project is available in this American Biology Teacher journal article.
Incorporate Wolbachia into your Curriculum
Implementation of the labs in your classroom is facilitated by partnerships with the Wolbachia scientific community, online digital resources, downloadable labs and lectures, a free loaner equipment program, and a DNA sequencing partnership with the Bordenstein Lab at Vanderbilt University.
The lab modules are designed to be stand-alone and can either be incorporated into individual daily lesson plans addressing National Science Education Standards or used as a coherent unit progressively emphasizing the nature of a long-term science project throughout the school year. The full lab series teaches observation, conceptualization, the scientific method, and major concepts in systematics and biodiversity, genomic DNA isolation, biotechnology, DNA sequencing, bioinformatics, and molecular evolution.
Let’s Get Started!
Teacher Emeritus Chris Brothers created this slideshow to summarize her experience with the lab series in an AP Biology class.
The project is divided into five modules that are accessible here. Each module includes a lecture and lab protocol. Some modules also include alternate protocols that have been contributed by former teachers and collaborators. These protocols utilize different materials and/or methods and may be more suitable for your classroom. Additional resources, such as a teacher’s guide and WebQuest, are available here.
Please contact us for help getting started. We’re excited to explore the world of Wolbachia with you!