Endophytes—fungal and bacterial species that reside within plant tissues—form part of the plant microbiome and may confer benefits to their plant hosts. In academic year 2013-2014, a CURE on fungal endophytes (Bascom-Slack et al., 2012) was introduced into BIO 1114H, the honors section of an Introductory Biology course for STEM majors focused on evolution, organismal biology, and ecology. In Autumn 2018 the endophytes CURE was incorporated into a non-honors section of BIO 1114.
Students in BIO 1114/BIO 1114H labs conduct a term-long research project to characterize the fungal endophytes present in plant tissues. In small research groups, students develop a research question, design a research study, and select plant species and plant tissues to sample for their project.
Students have ownership over the project through the development of their research questions, and the collection of plant material for this CURE from a variety of sources, including:
- Ohio State’s Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory
- Ohio State’s Biological Sciences Greenhouses
- The Oval and other parts of the OSU campus
- Crop plants grown on students’ family farms
- Students’ homes, gardens, and dorm rooms
- Commercial sources including grocery stores, farmers markets, and flower shops
The endophytes CURE bridges microbiology and ecology. In addition to developing lab skills and techniques, students engage with all aspects of the scientific process. The project culminates when the research team synthesizes their results, evaluates their research question, and develops a research poster or paper following the style of a scientific conference or journal. Students present their findings at a multi-course poster session at the end of the semester, in which they gain experience communicating scientific results to a broader audience.