Bonaparte's gull, Louisiana.

Microbes & Indoor Air Quality
An Environmental Project
Christine L. Case

  BIOL 215   My home page

Student enrolled in Biology courses are participating in this research project.

The purpose of this assignment is to help you.
1) Learn to read and use scientific articles.
2) Learn how air quality analyses are performed.

Sick Building Syndrome | Lab Protocol | References | Data

Sick building syndrome (SBS) is characterized by headache, dizziness, lethargy, tight chest, and fatigue. SBS can be caused by a variety of chemicals and particulates. SBS came to the forefront in the 1980s when Legionella growing in air conditioner reservoirs caused infections in people in closed buildings. Particulates <6 µm in the air can reach the lungs and 1-2 µm particles can be retained in alveoli. Biological particles in the air range from 0.5 to 30 µm. As many as 90% of the microbes are gram-positive bacteria because their cell walls and carotenoid pigments protect them from ultraviolet damage. Airborne microorganisms can come from soil, animals, and indoor sources. A variety of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria as well as fungi and algae have been found growing on indoor environmental surfaces such as air filters, duct tape, carpets, behind wall paper, and wet walls.

Before beginning, talk with the instructor to develop a work plan.

1. Title page (1)

2. Six (no more and no less) content pages. The text should consist of a student-worded analyses of your research during long hours in a library, in the lab, and in the field. Do not quote authors: Put the information in your own words and cite your reference.

  a.   Bimonthly data. (15)

      b.   Graph your counts of living organisms against time or location. (5)

      c.   Explain the relationship between the factors that you graphed. (10)

      d.   Compare your data to Skyline historical data and acceptable standards. (10)

      e.   Discuss the (beneficial, neutral, negative) significance of your data. (5)

Observing fungi
Gram staining.pdf

3.   Read about the organisms you identified and answer the following questions:

     a.   Why did you use SDA and NA; what is the purpose of each medium? (5)

     b.   How are fungi classified to kingdom, phyla, and classes? (5)

     c.   Identify two fungi. Provide the information to complete the following table. How do they differ from the fungus shown in the figure? What do they metabolize for their carbon and energy source(s)? What is their normal habitat? (10)



Sexual spores

Asexual spores

Compared to figure

Carbon source

Energy source


     d.   What are the gram reactions of the bacteria you cultured? Does one cell-wall type predominate? Discuss the significance of this. (10)

4. Literature cited page*.Include 5 references in correct format. (10) You must use at least 3 journal articles; all references may not be books and websites. References must be cited somewhere in the content. Do not include references prior to 1980.

5. Three figures on three separate pages.

a. Each figure must have a legend.
b. Refer to each figure in the body of the text.
c. Figures can include (one) photograph or picture; chemical formulae; metabolic pathways; phylogenetic tree; survivorship; population trends; graphs. (9)

6. General form: (5)

  • Attach this page to your report. (pdf)
  • Followed all directions explicitly with no exceptions.
  • Presentation is neat and orderly throughout.
  • Spelling and grammar are faultless.

Type your answers. Refer to the Style Sheet for directions. Print this page in pdf



Davis, P. "Molds, toxic molds, and indoor air quality. CRB Note. Vol. 8, No. 1,

Heidelberg, J.F. et al. "Effect of aerosolization on culturability and viability of gram-negative bacteria." Applied and Environmental Microbiology 63:3585-3588, Sept. 1997. (Has a good reference list.)

Kreiss, K. "The sick building syndrome in office buildings-a breath of fresh air. New England Journal of Medicine 328:877-878, May 25, 1993.

McNeel, S. and R. A. Kreutzer. "Fungi & Infoor Air Quality." Health & Environment Digest 10 (2):9-12, May/June 1996. (California Department of Health Services)

Menzies, R. et al. "The effects of varying levels of outdoor-air supply on the symptoms of sick building syndrome. New England Journal of Medicine 328:821-827, May 25, 1993.

Stetzenbach, L. D. (ed.). "Aerobiology." In Manual of Environmental Microbiology. (C. J. Hurst, ed.), pp. 617-702, Washington, D.C.: American Society for Microbiology, 1997.

About the Air Sampler: