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Carbon Dioxide Balloons: Visualizing Decomposition and Nutrient Cycling

This lab serves to introduce students to the role of decomposers in nutrient cycling.

The recycling of major nutrients such as carbon (C), hydrogen (H), nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and oxygen (O) is an important process that helps sustain generations upon generations of life on Earth. Without nutrient cycling, these resources would be finite, running out long before humans ever existed.Decomposers are responsible for a significant portion of nutrient cycling.

These organisms consume and break down dead organic matter into nutrients that can be reincorporated into the atmosphere, soil, and water. Bacteria, fungi, earthworms, and flies are common examples of decomposers.

Yeast are single-celled, eukaryotic, fungi that play a crucial role in converting sugar (C₆H₁₂O₆) into atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO₂). Sugar, or glucose, is a macromolecule present in various forms of life. It contains an abundance of C, H, and O that can be reused to support more life on Earth when organisms decompose.


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Example of Student Work