VIRTUALURCHIN   for teachers

Live Labs
Support for live developmental and cell biology labs using sea urchins can be found on our 300 page sister site, where you will find extensive resources for these hands-on classroom labs.

Our virtual labs and activities serve many purposes. We have designed these open-access activities for individual, group, or classroom use. In many cases the virtual lab module will be most valuable if used in preparation for hands-on lab experience. Virtual labs may also serve as alternatives to lab experiences that may not be possible in the classroom setting because of limitations imposed due to time required for the actual lab, the expense of laboratory equipment, or safety. Our Lab Bench is designed to help students have a hands-on experience and is a part of several modules.

Our virtual microscopy labs are designed to help students gain familiarity with the microscope as a laboratory tool. We encourage use of the virtual labs not to replace hands-on use of real lab equipment, but rather to better prepare students for the microscope lab experience.

We suggest using the virtual microscope tutorial to introduce students to the basic use of the microscope. Since there is no need to worry about damaging a virtual scope, we save care and handling of the scope for a little later. This will engage students in actual use of the scope early on and they can review these critical steps when they are preparing to handle the microscope in the lab.

Suggested order of Microscopy teaching modules:

Step I- virtual Microscope Tutorial lab (partially developed)
structure & function of parts of the microscope
microscope quiz

Step II- virtual lab Microscope Use Tutorial (under development)
finding the specimen
slide focus & light adjustment-low power
high dry (40X)power focus & light adjustment
care/handling of microscope (how to carry, adjusting focus knob, adjusting eyepiece, adjusting condenser knob, cleaning lenses)
specimen prep

Step III- hands-on microscope lab (under development)
clean lenses
use prepared slides to practice low power focus & light adjustment
practice high dry (40X) power focus & light adjustment
prepare wet mount slides

Step IV- virtual Microscope Measurement lab
perspectives on size of specimen, choice of objective
calibrating the microscope
use of calibrations to measure specimen

Part V- virtual Advanced Microscope Tutorial lab (under development)
oil immersion technique

Part VI- Microscope Compare (prototype)
reasons for using different kinds of scopes/illumination
types of scopes
scale and perspective from different scopes
views of specimen with different techniques (Specimen Compare prototype)

Fertilization and Development
This module introduces students to the spawning, fertilization, and early development of sea urchins. Students use the Lab Bench to set up sea urchin fertilizations that they will use in other experiments.

Embryology: Fertilization to hatching
This module follows directly from the fertilization lab, by presenting an interactive time-lapse video of sea urchin development from fertilization to hatching. Students can pause the video at any step and learn more about each of the embryonic stages.

Morpholino Microinjection
This module introduces students to modern molecular genetics techniques in the sea urchin, focusing on development of the calcium carbonate larval skeleton. Students first learn about the sea urchin life cycle, skeletal development, one of the genes involved in skeletal formation, and the modern technique of morpholino microinjection used to disrupt gene function in sea urchin embryos. Then students design a morpholino using the sea urchin genome, enter our modified virtual lab bench to prepare for the injection, inject embryos in our virtual microinjection room, and finally analyze the results of the experiment.

Ocean Acidification
Now that the students have mastered the Lab bench and learned about urchin fertilization, development and skeletal development, they conduct an investigation into the impact of ocean acidification on sea urchin larval growth. Students start by gaining background information on ocean acidification and utilizing an interactive chemical model of the process. Then, they enter the lab bench, set up and conduct the experiment, and analyze real data.

*Download our Ocean Acidification lesson plan (modified in part from Vicki Soutar's lesson plan, linked below).
   (DOC format or PDF format)

*Download a more detailed lesson plan developed by Vicki Soutar, a high school teacher in Georgia, USA.
   (DOC format or PDF format)

*Download an excel spreadsheet with the measurement data and more statistics (ANOVA).
   (XLS format or PDF format)

*The specific experiment in our virtual lab with the European common sea urchins (Paracentrotus lividus). Has not yet been published. But a similar study using the purple urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) has been published by our partner scientists Drs. Sam Dupont & Michael Thorndyke and their colleagues.

Download that study for more information on the protocols and observed impacts of acidified water on sea urchin development.
M Stumpp, J Wren, F Melzner, MC Thorndyke and ST Dupont. 2011. CO2 induced seawater acidification impacts sea urchin larval development I: Elevated metabolic rates decrease scope for growth and induce developmental delay. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A 160: 331-340.   (download PDF)

*For advanced study: part two of the above research, examining impacts of ocean acidification on gene expression in purple urchin larvae.

M Stumpp, ST Dupont, MC Thorndyke and F Melzner. 2011. CO2 induced seawater acidification impacts sea urchin larval development II: Gene expression patterns in pluteus larvae. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A. In press.   (download PDF)

Urchin Anatomy
This module explores internal and external anatomy of the sea urchin in an interactive tutorial.

This module is an interactive activity that illustrates food chain principles and the sea urchinís roles as both predator and prey.