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John Buchner
Department of Cell Biology & Molecular Genetics
University of Maryland
Cow of the Future: Genetically Engineering a Microbe to Reduce Bovine Methane Emissions

In this case developed for an introductory general microbiology course, students consider concepts of bacterial genetics as they act as consultants to a foundation interested in funding innovative products. Students take the role of advising "the baroness" who provides the funds for the foundation. The Baroness has no expertise in bacterial genetics and is trying to understand a proposal for the development of a microbial product that would impact the amount of methane emitted to the atmosphere by cattle.  Students must consider the role of rumen bacteria and how genetic modification may alter the potential of these bacteria. The case engages students in learning basic principles of bacterial genetics and biotechnology as they consider how microbes and microbial processes impact the environment. The case could also be used in an introductory genetics or biotechnology course.