Dr. Kay Bidle – Microbiology: Virus & Phytoplankton Interactions (4/3/14)

Dr. Kay Bidle will present his current research at the April 3, 2014 STEM Educators’ Series. Dr. Bidle will discuss his work on the interactions between marine viruses and phytoplankton, how these interactions shape ecosystem dynamics, and how using molecular biology and biochemistry techniques helps us to understand ecology. Following the lecture, we will share lesson plans related to marine food webs (viruses/phytoplankton interactions) and ecology as well as discuss how to bring these topics into your classrooms/clubs. The evening will culminate with an information/activity exchange during which educators will share with each other activities they are currently using in their classrooms to teach about molecular biology, food webs, and marine ecology.

Below we have included a summary of Dr. Bidle. We will compile Background Materials, the Lecture, and adapted Lesson Plans to teach on the topics of molecular biology, food webs, and marine ecology as we get closer to the event.

Enjoy! The East Coast MARE Team

Click to Register for this STEM Educators’ Series event.

bidle_lgDr. Kay Bidle –

Dr. Kay Bidle is an Associate Professor at Rutgers University. He received his bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and completed his Ph.D. in Marine Biology/Oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego. His broad research interests are in the fields of microbial ecology, phytoplankton physiology and mortality, biogeochemistry, and ecosystem processes. He works to elucidate, using molecular biology and biochemistry techniques, cellular strategies whereby phytoplankton and marine bacteria react to their environment and, in the process, shape ecosystem dynamics and biogeochemistry in the upper ocean.

Background Materials-

We have compiled the following materials as optional background information if you wish to read about the topics that will be covered during the event and included in the adapted lesson plans below (coming in February).

Glossary of terms relevant to Dr. Kay Bidle’s research and science presentation.

Dr. Kay Bidle’s recent NA VICE cruise in the North Atlantic (North Atlantic Virus Infection of of Coccolithophore Expedition) was fortunate to have Rose Eveleth along to blog about the experience. Check it out at: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/expeditions/tag/knorr/.

Microbes / Microbial Ecology:

  • Marine Microbial Ecology (Article) – Overview of why Microbes are important and includes many examples of microbes including phytoplankton, protozoa, and protists etc. Also emphasizes on certain processes that microbes undergo such as photosynthesis and respiration.
  • Marine Microbes (Article) – Speaks more about microbes in the ecological environment. Marine microbes are any microbes in a saltwater environment. Lastly, in terms of where these microbes are located the article says these microbes are restricted to the upper sunlit portion of the seas.
  • The Scientist: An Ocean of Viruses (Article) – Gives information about the host specificity of viruses, which allows viruses to infect an array of different organisms, and how this has decreased over time.
  • Nature Reviews: Marine Viruses – Major Players in the Global Ecosystem (Article) – Speaks about how marine viruses provide much of the genetic diversity in oceans. However, marine viruses are also a big cause of death for much of the marine community.
  • The Abundant and Diverse Viruses of the Seas (Article) – Explains how marine viruses mainly infect bacteria in the ocean, however, some do infect plants and animals as well. Viruses make up a very large percentage of the ocean biomass.
  • What is Bacteria? (Article) – Clearly defines bacteria and classifies each different kind of bacteria. Also discusses where they can be found, provides some bacteria history, displays diagram labeling bacteria anatomy, and lastly speaks about certain bacteria characteristics such as reproduction.
  • Teach Ocean Science, Bacteria (Article) – The article focuses on the special parts of bacteria that work in making food in marine life through processes such as photosynthesis.
  • National Geographic Education: Autotroph (Article) – Being that phytoplankton classify as autotrophs, this article focuses on what an autotroph does (being able to make food out of light, water, and/or other chemicals).


  • What are Phytoplankton? (Article) – This Article has a large overview on phytoplankton and highlights their function on the marine food web. Article also focuses on the importance of phytoplankton on a global scale pertaining to climate and the carbon cycle.
  • Phytoplankton are Microscopic Marine Plants (Article) – Classifies Phytoplankton into two different types. Highlights some key characteristics about phytoplankton and the role they play as far as feeding specific animals in a marine ecosystem.

Molecular Ecology:

  • Molecular Ecology (Book) – Molecular Ecology, 2nd Edition provides an accessible introduction to the many diverse aspects of this subject. The book takes a logical and progressive approach to uniting examples from a wide range of taxonomic groups.
  • Programmed Cell Death/ Apoptosis (Book/Article)– Defines what programmed cell death is, the function it serves, and why it is important. Also goes in depth as far as the steps necessary for this process to occur.
  • Coevolution (Article)– Describes coevolution as two organisms influencing each other’s evolution, such as predator/prey and parasite/host. Coevolution is usually a reaction or adaptation that one organism undergoes which is dependent on an act of another organism

Teaching with Models:

  • Teaching How Scientists Use Models with: What Makes up most of the Solar System – NASA created a model which explains to students why scientists use models and also gives a sort of outline to working with models that could be applied to this topic.
  • Tips for Teaching Modeling in Science – Harvard Graduate School of Education developed a list of tips in response to teacher requests for ways to teach modeling and the importance of models in science and learning to their students.
  • Food Webs/Marine – The Gould League (of Australia) put together this model/game that further explains the marine food web.
  • Ocean Life Food Web – Ocean Oasis provides an activity that leads students through making their own food web, understanding that phytoplankton are the main producers of the marine food web.

Evening Presentation and Discussions-

If you are interested in watching the recording of the event, click here: COMING FOLLOWING THE EVENT

If you are interested in downloading the presentation slides, click here: COMING FOLLOWING THE EVENT


We developed a packet of notes pages, data slides, and materials for participants in the program. Download Bidle STEM-ES Packet

Activity 1 (Brainstorm Discussion): What kind of questions can we ask in microbial oceanography? What methods could we use to investigate these questions?

Have the students think to themselves and jot down some notes about what kind of questions we can ask and how we can study them in microbial oceanography. After a few minutes have volunteers share out some of the variables they thought of. Write them on the chalk board as they are sharing.

5.1.B/SEP 1: Asking Questions:

– Scientific questions are distinguished from other types of questions in that the answers lie in explanations supported by empirical evidence, including evidence gathered by others or through investigation.

Activity 2 (Identifying Patterns): What patterns do you see in this satellite image?

Explain to the students that one part of data interpretation is identifying significant features and patterns. They will do this with a satellite image. Have the students work in small groups to interpret the image. After a few minutes have volunteers share with one another what they were discussing. Make sure they site the evidence.

5.1.B/SEP 4: Analyzing and Interpreting Data:

– Students are expected to interpret data by identifying significant features and patterns, use mathematics to represent relationships between variables, and take into account sources of error. It is important students present data as evidence to support their conclusions.

Activity 3 (Interpreting Data): Using the data provided: 1) What patterns do you notice in the abundance of the two groups? 2) What hypothesis can you draw as to why the groups demonstrate this pattern?

Pass out the Phytoplankton/Virus abundance figures to half of the group and GSL abundance figure to the other half of the group. Have the students work in small groups to analyze their data. After a few minutes have one group present to the others what they found and then vice versa. Make sure they site the evidence.

Data Figures:

This activity is loosely based off of original lesson plans that were developed to teach middle and high school students about the research that Dr. Bidle is conducting.

5.1.B/SEP 4: Analyzing and Interpreting Data:

– Students are expected to interpret data by identifying significant features and patterns, use mathematics to represent relationships between variables, and take into account sources of error. It is important students present data as evidence to support their conclusions.

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