Stories tagged microbes

Nov
17
2010

All Abooooooard!  Microbes Set Sail
All Abooooooard! Microbes Set SailCourtesy C-MORE
Well, yeah, that’s right. Microbes don’t smile, and they sure don’t command an oceanographic ship. However, there are lots of microbes in the sea; in fact, they account for most of the total marine biomass. With that in mind, there’s no question about microbes being fundamental to the functioning and health of the oceans.

UNOLS ship, the RV Melville
UNOLS ship, the RV MelvilleCourtesy Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Scientists from C-MORE (Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education) and the Universidad de Concepción, Chile have organized an expedition to one of the most sparsely sampled oceanic regions on the planet…the southeast Pacific Ocean. The expedition’s official name is BiG RAPA (Biogeochemical Gradients: Role in Arranging Planktonic Assemblages). It departed from Chile on November 17 on the research ship Melville and will travel almost due west, ending at Rapa Nui (Easter Island) on December 14.

BiG RAPA expedition’s multi-media, interactive Sea It Live website
BiG RAPA expedition’s multi-media, interactive Sea It Live websiteCourtesy C-MORE
Oceanographers will conduct studies on a microbial community that exists in a very curious environment. The Melville will travel from the nutrient-rich coastal waters off Chile into the low-nutrient area known as the South Pacific Subtropical Gyre. The SPSG is the most oligotrophic, or nutrient-poor, of all sub-tropical gyres. What kind of microbes can live in such an impoverished area? How do they do it? Join the BiG RAPA’s Sea It Live Tracker and find out!

Nov
12
2010

a paver, or stone tile, representing ocean microbes
a paver, or stone tile, representing ocean microbesCourtesy B. Mayer
Who hasn’t heard about the very great scientific and social problems of global warming and ocean acidification? As microbiologist Louis Pasteur noted more than a century ago, “The very great is accomplished by the very small.” Part of the answer to these very great problems can be accomplished by understanding the very small: ocean microbes, living things that are less than a hundredth of the thickness of a human hair.

Our effort to understand the very small in the ocean has just taken a big step. C-MORE Hale (Hawaiian language for “house,” pronounced hah-lay) was officially dedicated in a ceremony that took place on October 25, 2010. C-MORE, or the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research & Education, is all about studying ocean microbes. Scientists at C-MORE are looking into microorganisms at the genomic, DNA level and all the way up to the biome level where microbes recycle elements in ocean ecosystems.

Headquartered at the University of Hawai`i, C-MORE’s interdisciplinary team includes scientists, engineers and educators from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Oregon State University, University of California – Santa Cruz and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. As a National Science Foundation center, C-MORE is a dynamic “think tank” community of researchers, educators and students from a variety of cultural backgrounds, including native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander.

C-MORE Hale, with stone tiles
C-MORE Hale, with stone tilesCourtesy B. Mayer
C-MORE Hale will be equipped completely and ready for scientists to put on their lab coats and get to work in January 2011. For now, e komo mai! (welcome!) Imagine yourself walking along this sidewalk leading to C-MORE Hale. Stop for a moment to look at the round pavers; they depict ocean microbes first discovered by 19th century zoologists on the worldwide HMS Challenger expedition. Step past these unique designs and take a tour of the brand-new building!

Jun
12
2009

Microbes Coexist Peacefully with Other Marine Life: They are in there somewhere, even if you can't see them!
Microbes Coexist Peacefully with Other Marine Life: They are in there somewhere, even if you can't see them!Courtesy Mila Zinkove

The Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) is a fantastic, state of the art research program. With grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and help from researchers from around the world they strive to impress upon people the significance of microbial organisms and through research gain a more comprehensive knowledge of microorganisms living in the ocean. Their primary goal is to create a better understanding of how these little tiny microbes affect the entire biome of the ocean.

They hope to find answers to life's persistent questions on climate change, and they think these little guys might hold the key. Some of these microorganisms from the ocean have the ability to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in organic matter. Not only is this one of the many talents of one kind of microbe, its actually the way they in a sense, breathe. If this one microbe can do all that, think of what other science secrets that are still hidden in the ocean waiting to be discovered and change the world! Hurray!

Earlier this spring C-MORE broke ground on a new facility in Hawai'i where they hope to develop new strategies that will unveil the link between the microbial genotype and ocean phenotype. I personally am very excited to see what they discover next! Good luck!

May
04
2009

Not to freak y'all out, but did you know that germs are on everything you touch? Using a special powder called Glo Germ (get it here) you can actually see how germs spread from one thing to another. It will make you want to wash your hands more often. (And the CDC recommends washing your hands frequently. In fact, why don't you go wash up right now?)

Scrub 'em: Use soap and water, and wash for 20 seconds. That's about the time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.
Scrub 'em: Use soap and water, and wash for 20 seconds. That's about the time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.Courtesy mitikusa

TRY THIS:
Goal: to observe how germs are spread
Age level:: 3 and above
Activity time: 2 - 5 minutes
Prep time: 5 minutes

Materials needed:

  • Glo Germ powder
  • Toys or common household/school/office objects to "spike" with germs
  • UV lamp or detector box

Preparation:

  1. Sprinkle Glo Germ powder on your objects.
  2. Arrange them somewhere where others can handle them.
  3. Plug in UV lamp, but don't turn it on.

Directions:
Encourage others to pick up and play with the objects. Ask them what they know about germs.

  • Do you know where microbes are found?
  • Do you know what a microbe/germ is?
  • Do you know what illnesses are caused by germs?
  • Do you know the best way to avoid getting sick because of germs?

After the discussion, tell them that, as part of an experiment, you've put "pretend" germs on one or some of the objects they may have touched today. Switch on the UV lamp: what glows?

Reinforce the fat that the Glo Germ powder is just to simulate germs. It won't make you sick. You can get rid of the germs by washing your hands. In fact, encourage your audience to wash their hands and then hold them under the UV light again.

(On the other hand, remember that not all germs are bad. Exposure to some germs is thought to protect people against asthma and allergies or colitis, and overuse of antibacterial products leads to antibiotic resistance and superbugs as well as potential damage to the environment.)

Researchers at Penn State have found a new species of bacteria in Greenland. Big whip – as long as it stays away from me, who cares? Well, this organism is ultra-small (I know what you’re thinking – aren’t bacteria pretty, um, small to begin with? Yeah, but these are super-duper small). It has also survived for 120 thousand years trapped without oxygen under two miles of ice. It may help scientists look for life on cold planets and moons elsewhere in our Solar System. (Which I think is a proper noun and therefore should be capitalized, though I may be mistaken.)

Some microbes are resistant to antibiotics. Researchers in England have developed a way to change the molecular structure of antibiotics to make them more effective against these “superbugs.”

Jan
18
2007

I've been chatting with Chris Condayan from the American Society for Microbiology and discovering a bunch of great website about this science of "wee beasties." I had to share some of the fun:

Cartoon critters

Bacillus cereus: Cartoon by Emma Lurie
Bacillus cereus: Cartoon by Emma Lurie

Adopt a Microbe is a goofy blog from Emma Lurie, a microbiology student in perth. A graphic artist, Lurie, draws great cartoons of common microbes and posts them along with fun and simple descriptions. From Bacillus cereus' description:

I love rice!
Rice is one of my favourite places to live, especially if it's been reheated over and over.
You can get food poisoning from me that will give you diarrhoea and vomiting.
I use a special toxin to make you sick.

An unconventional documentary

Ever wonder about the history of microbiology but didn't want to watch a dry film with boring scientists? LEGOs to the rescue. These whimsical animated LEGO mini-figs tell the wild history of microbiology greats like Louis Pasteur.

So now that you're interested, look further into the microscope with these more in-depth resources:
Microbe World - Discover Unseen Life on Earth
Small Things Considered - The Microbe Blog.

Aug
06
2006


Ocean Waves: Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

When you are swimming in the ocean, you might want to be careful not to drink the water. First of all, that salty seawater doesn’t taste too good. But also, scientists just discovered that there are way more bacteria swimming in the ocean than they previously thought.

According to a study recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one liter of seawater can be home to over 20,000 different species of bacteria. This is about 20 to 100 times greater than previous estimates. Scientists now estimate that there could be between five and ten million types of bacteria living in the ocean.

The discovery was made possible by a new technique known as “454 tag sequencing” that allows for the quick identification of organisms. This technique allows them to identify thousands of kinds of unusual bacteria, which may have gone unnoticed in other research.

Dr Mitchell Sogin, from the Marine Biological Laboratory's Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative and Molecular Biology and Evolution, told BBC News that this biodiversity discovery “really points to our lack of knowledge and how much more there is to learn." There really is much to learn about the world around us.

So, next time you're swimming at the beach and you accidently take a big gulp of seawater, just think of the wide diversity of microorganisms you just swallowed.