Corps of Discovery in an Electronic Age: Thermal Biology and the Digital Library

"Science is knowledge not of things, but of their relations” Henri Poincare’ Science and Hypothesis

Perhaps you are wondering about the interaction of minerals and microbes in hot springs at Yellowstone--as potential sources of energy and nutrients-- and you want to assimilate this information into teaching resources about thermophilic bacteria in your undergraduate Environmental Geology class. Dr. Dave Mogk, a well-established mineralogist and member of the Thermal Biology Institute, could probably provide information that helps you accomplish both goals. In addition to characterizing life in the extreme environments of Yellowstone hot springs, Dr. Mogk is a leader in geoscience education, focusing on gaining a better understanding of how people learn. Dr Mogk has worked with the National Science Foundation to direct the gathering of both scientific information and interactive teaching tools and curricula in an integrated electronic medium - the digital library.

Dr. Mogk was instrumental in the development of the National Science Digital Library (NSDL), and is a co-founder of the Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE) that began in 2000.

He has co-developed the NSDL portal on Using Data in the Classroom, and is co-PI on a NSF-funded project to convene faculty professional development workshops on topics such as Teaching Biocomplexity in the Geosciences and Teaching Petrology in the 21st Century.

Recognizing the important connections between the physical environment and microbial life evident in his scientific endeavors in Yellowstone, Dr. Mogk initiated yet another project, Digital Educational Resources in Microbial Ecology, Evolution and Diversity (DERMEED) with support from the National Science Foundation and the Thermal Biology Institute.

DERMEED will utilize new information technologies to link primary scientific information about microorganisms with related instructional resources through the NSDL network for a diverse community of educators and students. Its scope covers microbial evolution, diversity and ecology and life in extreme environments. This collaborative project between Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory and the Thermal Biology Institute at Montana State University draws together researchers with strong and previously independent track records in developing web-mediated educational resources.

The DERMEED 2-year project, launched in 2003, fills an important niche in the National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL), bridging the fields of molecular biology, genomics, microbial ecology, and Earth system science. In addition, it addresses curricular needs for instructional resources in these areas as well as the public's interest in the diversity and occurrences of life in all its forms.

The co-development of collections of scientific resources (images and data) and instructional resources (thematic collections) supports the goal of integrating research and education. The development of the digital library allows for dissemination of information about ecosystem dynamics in Yellowstone’s thermal systems, and helps the scientific discoveries of the Thermal Biology Institute reach a broader audience.