The MWW Blog is launching a new series called “Wednesday Word of the Week.” This feature will contribute to our ongoing work educating the public about geo-literacy–the ability to use geographic knowledge to make informed decisions about the dynamic world we live in. Geo-literacy is a relevant, applicable, and global tool; it is a communicative bridge between the peoples, places and possibilities of our earth.
Autotroph: [aw-tuh-trof, -trohf] [environmental geography]
Noun: An autotroph is an organism that can produce its own food using light, water, carbon dioxide, or other chemicals. Because autotrophs produce their own food, they are sometimes called producers.
Plants are the most familiar type of autotroph, but there are many different kinds of autotrophic organisms. Algae, which live in water and whose larger forms are known as seaweed, is autotrophic. Phytoplankton, tiny organisms that live in the ocean, are autotrophs. Some types of bacteria are autotrophs.
What about carnivorous plants? How would you classify the venus flytrap–is it an autotroph because it is a plant? Or is it a heterotroph? (HEH-tuh-roh-trohf) noun. An organism that cannot make its own nutrients and must rely on other organisms for food.