This lesson provides students with an opportunity to explore the diversity of microbes in the marine environment.

Through classification activities, students will gain an understanding of the challenges in identifying and understanding microbes.  Students will use DNA sequences to identify relatedness between microbes using phylogenetic trees, then identify the role of specific microbes by searching for the presence of functional genes.  A final product will allow students to communicate conclusions based on DNA evidence and research.

They will be using both SeaView (software to compare genetic sequences between organisms) and BLAST (online software to search a genome for a specific function).




Katie Lodes, Robyn Ehrlich, Mark Friedman

Next Generation Science Standards

Crosscutting Concepts
  • Structure and function
  • Systems and System Models

Core Ideas

  • LS1.A: Structure and Function
  • LS1.D: Information Processing
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Ocean Literacy Fundamental Concepts

  • 5.B: Most of the organisms and biomass in the ocean are microbes, which are the basis of all ocean food webs. Microbes are the most important primary producers in the ocean. They have extremely fast growth rates and life cycles, and produce a huge amount of the carbon and oxygen on Earth.