If We Are What We Eat, Americans Are Corn and Soy

Description:  This CNN story and journal article show how big a role corn plays in the diet of typical Americans. Scientists can do isotope analysis of the carbon to determine the source of carbon. Corn production is heavily subsidized in the US and relies on large amounts of fertilizers and water.

Web Resources:  If we are what we eat, Americans are corn and soy - CNN, Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in fast food: Signatures of corn and confinement - PNAS

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Reconstructing Ancient Diets with Isotopes

Description:  Scientists are able to reconstruct the diet of ancient humans by analyzing the isotopes found in their bones and hair. For example by examining the 12C/13C isotope ratio they can determine if the diet was mainly wheat (a C3 plant) or corn (a C4 plant). They can also place the diet in different trophic levels based on the isotopes of carbon as well as nitrogen and oxygen. This phenomenon could start with the following question: Was the paleo diet truly the paleo diet?

Web Resource: Reconstructing Ancient Diets with Isotopes - Wikipedia

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Vegetable Oil as Fuel

Description:  Vegetable oil can be used as fuel in both diesel cars and heating oil burners. Reclaimed vegetable oil that is used in food service industries could be used to reduce the amount of fossil fuels that are being used by humans. This phenomenon could be used in an energy unit related to either the physical or life sciences.

Web Resources:  Vegetable Oil Fuel - Wikipedia, Students Power Bus with Vegetable Oil - NBC


Algae Fuel and Food

Description:  Algae food and fuel hope to reduce human dependence on fossil fuels and avert food shortages around the world. Algae fuel works in the same way as fossil fuels but the carbon dioxide released during combustion is carbon taken from the atmosphere in algae photosynthesis. Algae can also be used to create animal feed which currently uses large amounts of soil and water resources. This phenomenon can be use in an energy unit or life science unit related to mass and energy.

Web Resource: Algae Fuel - Wikipedia


Farming Fish with Vegetables

Description:  Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (i.e. fish farming) with hydroponics (i.e. growing plants in water). Matter cycles in the system and is driven by energy flow from light. Waste from the fish is used as fertilizer for the plants which in turn feeds the fish. Excess plants and fish can be harvested as food for humans.

Web Resources: How to DIY Aquaponics,  Aquaponics - Wikipedia


12 Years in a Sealed Ecosphere

Description:  The Ecosphere in this video has been sealed in a glass container for 12 years. No air or food was able to enter or leave the Ecosphere during this entire time yet the shrimp are all still alive. This phenomenon can be used in the elementary science classroom to introduce plant and animal needs. It can be used in middle and high school to address matter cycling and energy flow.

Web Resources: Ecosphere (aquarium) on WikipediaEcospheres