In the interactive version of the zoo, you will be able to click on an area (DirtLand, the Animal Pavilion, Water World, etc.) to visit microbes that live in each habitat. You can stop by the information booth to get some background info about microbial ecology topics, or to get help in learning how to use the software. Stop by the Safari Hut, grab a camera, and turn your trip to the zoo into a photo safari... and take your pictures home with you when you leave.
Let's take a closer look at one of the habitats represented in the zoo. DirtLand houses microbes that live underground, in compost, and in toxic waste dumps. Microbes have a major role in agriculture and plant growth... so we've included the Root Cellar as one of the pavilions in DirtLand. The Root Cellar houses microbes that live in soil and in symbiotic associations with plants in and around their roots. Clicking on the root cellar doors in DirtLand will lead Microbe Zoo users to this screen:
Clicking on the clover roots (on the left) leads to exhibits containing Rhizobium trifolii, a species of bacterium that lives in a symbiotic relationship with many plants (legumes). Clicking on the grass roots (on the right) leads to cages containing other soil-dwelling microbes, such as mycorrhizal fungi. Clicking on the scientist's notebook (lower left) opens this notebook, where you can browse background information about microbes in roots and soil by reading, examining diagrams and pictures, and watching and interacting with short animations. Clicking on the Zoo Map (lower right) unfolds it, allowing you to venture off to other parts of the zoo.
Now that you know your way around the zoo a little, let's go look at some of the creatures in the zoo. Since we're in the root cellar, let's stroll over to one of the cages with Rhizobia in it. Here's what the microbes in their enclosures look like:
That's it for our quick introductory overview of the Microbe Zoo. If you'd like to find out more, the links below lead to some pictures of microbes that will soon be added to the zoo's collection, to descriptions of some of the sections of the zoo, and to the story of an early encounter we had with high school students and their teacher:
The DLC-ME is being developed by the Comm Tech Lab and the Center for Microbial Ecology at Michigan State University.