I've often wondered where to place decomposers when drawing or discussing trophic level pyramids. Students have wondered: "What is the difference between a scavenger and a decomposer?" Using Decay and Renewal: Student Edition, I'll be able to present a clearer picture of this essential group of organisms.
Textbooks often mention decomposers only in passing, but this readable and well-written book presents decomposers accurately and in rich detail. Following a description of the science of biodegradation, the authors discuss the technological applications for garbage disposal, wastewater treatment, bioremediation of contaminants, and oil spill cleanup.
Not content with "just the facts," the authors also present extensive protocols for study of the biology, chemistry, and technology of decomposers in the field and in the lab. Observational qualitative science protocols as well as quantitative laboratory isolation and manipulation regimes are presented in detail rich enough for upper high school or introductory college level classes. High-quality drawings and clear procedures allow student researchers to learn about and investigate the functioning of these organisms. Throughout the factual and procedural materials, the interrelationship between science and technology is almost seamlessly woven together. Reproducible data collection and organization sheets facilitate research.
Teacher will encounter a few minor problems with the text. The treatment of photosynthesis is light and may cause misconceptions. Teachers who choose to do the bacteriological protocols advanced in the book will need to provide extensive additional safety instruction. These problems, however, do not detract from the overall utility of the book. This is a lab manual, background text, and ecological and environmental science resource that will be useful either as a curriculum supplement or as an individual independent study resource.