Microbial Life - Educational Resources

Teaching the diversity, ecology and evolution of the microbial world

Astrolithium from Woods Hole MA
Astrolithium collected from a sediment sample of seawater taken near Woods Hole, MA. This image was taken by David Patterson, Linda Amaral Zettler, Tom Peglar, and Tom Nerad and provided courtesy of the microscope web site.

Welcome to MLER, promoting visibility of on-line resources for use in the teaching of microbiology. It is part of the NSDL (more info) .

Project Description


MLER aims to provide a contemporary and expanding resource of expert information about the ecology, diversity and evolution of micro-organisms for students, K-12 teachers, university faculty, as well as for the general public. The resources of MLER include materials that can be accessed through the internet and cover microbial ecology, their evolution and diversity. These resources are built around themes. The initial themes will be directed to microbial life in extreme environments and microbial life in oceans. With close ties to the research community, MLER shortens the distance between researchers and students. Our coverage emphasizes the world of microbial organisms - the eubacteria (= bacteria), archaebacteria (= archaea), viruses, and the protists (protozoa, algae, slime molds).

Micrasterium from a slow moving freshwater stream in New South Wales Australia
Micrasterium collected from marginal debris in the slow moving freshwater stream at Audley in New South Wales, Australia. This image was taken by Feng Wie-Song and David Patterson, and provided courtesy of the microscope web site.

Microbes were the first inhabitants of the Earth and its only inhabitants for about half of the history of the biosphere. Microbes transformed the atmosphere to create the environment we now consider normal. They continue to be major players in most ecosystems. The infectious diseases of man, our livestock and plants are almost all caused by microbes. Through symbioses with other organisms, microbes opened up many major evolutionary pathways. In our quest to understand life in the Universe, the microbes of extreme environments inform us about where we might find life, and even what to look for.

The microbial world has much to teach us about ecology, evolution, and about our understanding of Life. This site contains educational and supporting materials for students and teachers of microbiology. You will find information about microorganisms, extremophiles and extreme habitats, as well as links to online resources, teaching and learning activities.

MLER will catalog existing educational resources related to microbial life, including resources from the open WWW and resources already cataloged in the NSDL collections and other agencies committed to promoting awareness of microbiology. Faculty and other participants will be able to move resources that they have created into this website to improve visibility of, access to and dissemination of that material. Communication tools will provide mechanisms to identify areas where educators perceive a need for additional resource development and to invite experts or educators to contribute new materials.

Resources to be included in these collections are those that fall within the scope of the NSDL Collections Policy. The resources will include instructional materials and activities; datasets, interfaces and tools; pedagogical resources; course development and management resources; assessment instruments; primary sources, and bibliographies. Resources will be drawn as appropriate from primary scientific sources, pedagogic literature, evaluation literature, datasets (including tools), and resources from related disciplines.


Resource Selection and Review Criteria



Resources in MLER are selected for inclusion in the collections and reviewed based on the following criteria:

The collections are built through discovery of resources from a number of sources: selection of resources from the WWW; government agencies, institutions, and educational or research projects; recruitment of materials from credentialed experts; and, contributions from the community of resources that educators and researchers recommend as useful or important to instruction in the field of microbiology.

All resources are cataloged by trained staff and have metadata records created in the SERC Content Management System according to NSDL OAI (Dublin Core) standards. These records under go quality assurance review by a second trained staff member prior to ingestion and harvesting into metadata repositories (e.g. at SERC and NSDL).


Who We Are



MLER is a collaborative project of the Marine Biology Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, and Montana State University, Bozeman, MT. The Marine Biology Laboratory staff consists of Dr. David Patterson, Sarah (Roland) Bordenstein, and Mindy Richlen. The MSU Geoscience Education Web Development Team includes Dr. David Mogk, George Rice, Heather Beal, Scott Montross, Julian Deiss, and Monica Bruckner.

The Science Education Resource Center (SERC)at Carleton College, Northfield MN, hosts the MLER site and provides use of their Content Management System and related digital library technologies in support of this project.

The Terms of Use and Privacy policies adopted at SERC, and used in the MLER project, can be reviewed by accessing these links.

For more information about microbial life and extreme environments, visit the Thermal Biology Institute at Montana State University and the NASA Astrobiology Institute.


This project is funded by the National Science Foundation Grants 0333402 and 0333363.