A Model Organism for Inquiry-based Undergraduate Laboratories

Building a Biomonitor: Bean Beetle Larvae as a Model for Detecting Intestinal Bacteria Pollution in Water

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The overall outcome of this semester-long activity is for students to develop a simple, but accurate research model for testing the presence of cytotoxins in environmental samples. Specifically, students will be asked to use two existing technologies (LAL and trypan blue assays) and a proposed research model (bean beetles) to measure endotoxins in water accurately, inexpensively, and rapidly.

Water pollution is a major issue worldwide and restricts the availability of potable water in many developing nations. In developed nations, water pollution contributes to the cost of maintaining clean waterways used for commerce, consumption, and recreation. A disturbingly common pollutant is intestinal bacteria from animal and human sources. There are few inexpensive, quick, and simple procedures for accurately determining the presence of intestinal bacteria in water. Students will be asked to review the scientific literature to use bean beetles and a combination of two cytotoxicity assays to develop a research model for determining the presence of intestinal bacteria in water. Students should be aware of the cost, rapidity, and simplicity of the procedure to assess its feasibility.

Topic: Cell Biology, Cell Structure, Environmental Monitoring

Level: Non-majors Intermediate majors

Class Time: A minimum of 2 hours per week for two to three weeks.

Learning Objectives:

Design and perform a controlled experiment comparing cell lysis in bean beetle (Callosobruchus maculatus) larvae with and without endotoxin exposure.


Ms. Betsy Morgan and Dr. Brian R. Shmaefsky

Biology Department, Lone Star College, Kingwood, Kingwood, TX