Mussel Your Way Through Photosynthesis

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Using zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha), elodea and an indicator dye, learners study the role of light in photosynthesis. A segment of the carbon cycle will be studied by setting up a closed system between plants and animals. Learners test for the presence of carbon dioxide using Bromthymol blue. This activity can be used to introduce pH, without using pH paper or a meter.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 7 days

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Florescent light
  • Cardboard box for a dark location
  • 8 screw cap culture tubes
  • 4 zebra mussels
  • 4 pieces of elodea
  • Bromthymol blue solution
  • Dechlorinated water (aquarium or pond water)
  • Labels and white card
  • Pen


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Animals
    • Ecology
      • Energy Flow and Chemical Cycles
  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Acids and Bases
      • Chemistry of Life
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Culler, Bob