Paper cultures, paper cultures, paper cultures… After a week of trying to make a working shredded paper culture, Lauren, Eliza, and Joe are trying something different. In the past, Jolizen has made all of their endophyte cultures on agar, but now they are moving on. Today, they are trying to nail down a method for making broth cultures containing lignin and cellulose. The eventual goal is to isolate enzymes. Enzymes are proteins that can help break things, like paper, down into simple sugars. If we are successful, we will be able to grow our endophytes on a paper culture along with an enzyme in order to make biofuel!
Their explorations are in the hot pursuit of local species of lignicolous fungi, or fungi that degrade lignin. Their studies of these extraordinary microorganisms have just begun, yet they have already been captivated by their preliminary findings dealing with fungi isolation. Who knew bleach would inhibit bacterial growth, but allow the fungi to propagate?!
Now that project proposals are over, the real work begins! It is hectic and confusing in the TIME classroom because everyone is trying to figure out our first step. For Jolizen (Joe, Eliza, and Lauren), we are rolling in paper. This year, we are looking at growing endophytes, a type of fungus that mutualistically lives in and around the cell wall of plants, on a paper culture. In order to do this, we will use shredded paper to make a culture.