As you travel through the carbon cycle, we will trace a specific carbon atom, our hero Captain Carbon. Look for him to be marked in chemical diagrams with a colored "C." Each cycle contains many pages where Captain Carbon is part of a molecule or a greater structure and other pages where the Captain is undergoing a chemical change. Each of the "stops" is represented on the image maps by an oval or circle. The transitions are shown as arrows. The transitions are often longer and more involved pages than the stops, so do not be surprised if the page for glucose, for example, simply shows the glucose molecule with Captain Carbon's position marked. More information about glucose and other stops will be in the preceeding and following transition pages.
This site contains two different paths through the carbon cycle. In the carbohydrate cycle, Captain Carbon is transferred from carbon dioxide to a starch through photosynthesis. The Captain is followed as the wheat is consumed and the starch fuels a human body producing another carbon dioxide molecule to complete the cycle. Photosynthesis, however, allows multiple possibilities for the fate of our carbon atom; therefore, in the other cycle, the protein cycle, Captain Carbon becomes part of a protein in a plant that has undergone photosynthesis. The Captain travels through grass, a cow, and a human body as a protein until the human dies and decays producing a fossil fuel that burns to produce carbon dioxide. As a result, we have come full circle back to photosynthesis, the linking process between the two circles.
Each transition in this site begins with the Captain's Log where Captain Carbon tells his side of the story about the process that is going on. Following the Captain's Log is an overview and a detailed explanation of the various steps and processes which are going on. At the bottom of each page you will find a series of links. These links allow you to go forward and backward along the cycle. On two of the pages where the circles intersect, there are alternate links to allow you to move from the carbohydrate circle to the protein circle. Also, look for the "Captain's Cards" links to look at the postcards written by Captain Carbon on his adventures. Finally, should you get lost, simply look at the bottom of the page. A small navigational map of the cycles will show your position highlighted. If you wish to return to the full size image maps, click on the left side of the small navigational map to return to the protein cycle image map and click on the right side to return to the carbohydrate/fuel image map.
You can start and end anywhere on our Carbon Cycle. First select which cycle you wish to go to by clicking on either the link or its circle in the image map. Then choose the exact process or state with which you wish to start from the full size image map which will appear.