• Science
  • Grades 6-8
Scientist wearing gloves and inspecting item

Tiny Earth Lab

Student Sourcing Antibiotic Discovery

Tiny Earth is a global network of students and instructors dedicated to discovering new antibiotics through student-sourcing field research. Students collect and process samples from their local communities, send them to the lab for analysis, and receive data from the analysis in order to complete their study.

Why Research Matters

Jessi’s Story

Jessi developed an infection when she was starting high school, but no matter what her doctors did it would not go away. Jessi shares about some of the challenges she faced living with an antibiotic resistant infection, and why it is important to always search for new antibiotics.


“What I went through in high school was tough, but I'm hoping that it can inspire someone.”

Questions to consider
  • Jessi’s experience with antibiotic resistant bacteria made her curious about microbiology, and ultimately inspired her to go into a career in science. What experiences have you had that make you curious about science?
  • Doctors and scientists often have to try new methods of treatments to find solutions for problems, and it took several tries over many years to find the right solution for Jessi’s infection. Can you think of a time when your first solution didn’t work and you had to try again?

Science Practices

Jo Handelsman

Students Ask Scientists

Ever wonder what scientists do every day, or what kinds of phenomena they look for in their lab? Join middle schoolers from Oshkosh, Wisconsin and researchers from the Tiny Earth Lab to learn more about what research really looks like!

Questions to consider
  • Scientists are always asking questions, and then conducting experiments to try and answer their questions. What questions do you have about the world around you? What kind of experiments could you do to research your questions?
  • In the video, a researcher named Austin talks about something called a “Zone of Inhibition”. The Zone of Inhibition is an ‘observable phenomenon’—which means something that you can see happening. Can you think of any other phenomena that you have observed in nature or in a science experiment?

“It's important for everyone to pitch in so that we can really see the immense diversity that's there in soil across the country.”

Could the soil beneath your feet cure an infection?

Work with Amanda, the soil scientist, to look for effective antibiotics in soil and find the soil with the greatest potential of being rich in antibiotics.

Antibiotics Data Sheet
Antibiotics Data Sheet
Use this data sheet to record your answers to Amanda’s questions!


Meet The Scientists

Read about the scientists, then flip over the cards to learn more (and discover their secret superpower!) Who do you relate to the most?

There are 4 cards to read.

Jo Handelsman
Jo Handelsman
Principal Investigator

I’m the lab leader, which means that I bring the scientists together, attract new people to do training in my lab, and ensure it’s a dynamic and interesting place to work. ✨

Austin Hall
Austin Hall
PHD Student

As a graduate student, everyday I learn about the world of microbiology. One question I am interested in is: what special tools does a bacteria need to move into a community, also called a microbiome? 🏡

Julia Nepper
Julia Nepper
Postdoctoral Researcher

I study how the microbes in the soil respond to chemicals produced by other organisms living in the soil. 🦠

Amanda Hurley
Amanda Hurley
Postdoctoral Associate

In the laboratory, I spend lots of time testing ideas and generating information from experiments… and then discussing the results with friends. 😊

Educator Resource

Scientist inspecting mixture

Educator Engagement Guide

Tiny Earth Lab

Wondering how to spark additional learning using these media resources? Check out this guide developed by science educators, for science educators.

Inside this guide:

  • Additional information about the lab
  • Additional classroom activities to extend the learning
  • Aligned academic standards (NGSS and WSS)

Project Credits

Ian Glodich
Jessie Nixon

Ian Glodich

Ian Glodich

Beauxregard Neylon
Curtis Sorensen

Norman Yuson Cuaño
John Vieth
Tim Schneider

Brian Lorbiecki
Amanda Roslansky
Scott Stetson
Amber Samdahl

Science Education Content
Travis Tangen

Educator Engagement Guide and Activities
Travis Tangen
Christina Swords
Millie Rolander
Anika Gupta
Kaitlin Edwards
Amanda Hurley

Thanks to our scientists
Jo Handelsman
Amanda Hurley
Deepa Acharya
Marc Chevrette
Julia Nepper
Austin Hall
Sarah Miller
Luis Balderrama

Project Partner
Morgridge Institute for Research
Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation
Wisconsin Institute for Discovery
Handelsman Lab

Executive Producer
Megan Monday

Director of Education
Alyssa Tsagong

Director of Television
Jon Miskowski

Educator Advisory Group

Sarah Adumat
Oshkosh Area School District, Oshkosh, WI

Traci Marsolek
School District of Eleva-Strum, Strum, WI

Deborah Hilscher
Traeger Middle School, Oshkosh, WI

Funding Provided By

Timothy William Trout Education Fund
a gift of Monroe and Sandra Trout

Focus Fund for Education

Friends of PBS Wisconsin