Friday, December 3, 2010

"They THRIVE on arsenic!"

Okay, I couldn't resist...
The actual Science paper was interesting, although the scientist presenting this over-stated their findings (in my opinion). I think they still have some explaining to do, which I hope they get to and confirm that, indeed, these bugs use arsenic (As) instead of phosphorus (P).

In the paper, the microbes grown in arsenic but no phosphorus conditions (As+/P-) actually still had 2% dry weight P in them (and As was 20% dry weight). So they haven't proven that they don't need P at all. It would be a very cool find if they do prove this, since phosphate is thought to be /required/ for all life (same with carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, sulfur).

Also the microbes grown in Arsenic conditions looked like they were about to explode their guts out. See artist's impression above.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Taking a short break because I am currently studying for my qualifying exam... But I promise I will post when I can.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

You gonna eat that?

In oceanic water, certain types of organic substances are a real delicacy for bacteria. Those damn organic foodies.

Disclaimer: Bacteria here are not depicted to scale, they are MUCH smaller than a krill poo. Also a real krill pellet would sink within seconds of being generated by the krill, which is a marine crustacean (, taking the bacteria attached to the bottom of the sea...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Contrary to the opinion of some, industrial microbiology is not microbes wearing gas masks, goth hair, and somber expressions. That would be this -->

Industrial microbiology "or microbial biotechnology encompasses the use of microorganisms in the manufacture of food or industrial products. The microorganisms used in industrial processes may be natural isolates, laboratory selected mutants or genetically engineered organisms." (Courtesy of Wiki)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Evil Microbe Genius- Thwarted

SAR11's * plan to take over the ocean (and then the world!) is discovered by the human invention of metagenomic** sequencing.

*SAR11 - a group of microbes that is found in thousands of ocean samples from all over the globe. It is also now known to inhabit freshwater systems as well. What are you planning, you naughty microbes?

**Metagenomic sequencing is a type of DNA sequencing that examines bacterial communities straight from environmental samples, no culturing or cloning needed! This way we get to see exactly what is there ... and how much of it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Is this the end?

Bert's untimely dormancy* caused his friends to wonder whether they would ever see him active again... and whether one of them might be next to endosporate**. Dun dun dun.

*Dormancy in microbes is thought to be a response to environmental stresses. It can happen suddenly and without warning. Just kidding about that last part actually, probably not.

**Endosporulation is the formation of endospores. Bacteria can survive for thousands of years as spores and be revived when environmental conditions become favorable again. Spores themselves can survive very harsh conditions, from the freezing cold to the vacuum of space. It is a theory of how bacteria may have survived space to colonize early Earth from other planets. More about this later.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

If you spill it, they will come.

After a sudden injection of organic carbon into their waters, the Gulf of Mexico microbes had the wildest, sexiest, most hedonistic orgy in years.

Those are budding microbes in ecstasy by the way... in case my drawing skill didn't make that immediately obvious ;)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Prokaryotes vs. Eukaryotes

Another reason for the superiority of tiny prokaryotes as opposed to large eukaryotic cells.

A greater surface area to volume means every part of the cell gets nutrients more easily, making them very successful.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Displaced Microbes I

Warmer currents carried Missy Mesophile* to exotic waters where her usual physiology offered no insulation at all. To add insult to injury, the aboriginal Psychrophiles weren't at all welcoming.

*Mesophile: "an organism that grows best in moderate temperature, neither too hot nor too cold, typically between 15 and 40 °C (77 and 104 °F)." (courtesy of Wiki).
Psychrophile: "extremophilic organisms that are capable of growth and reproduction in cold temperatures" (courtesy of Wiki). Actually, they aren't just capable of growth at low temperature, but their growth ideal is at low temperature. Hence "psychro" (cold) and "phile" (loving).

Monday, September 6, 2010

The exciting new field

Just so you know, I have always disliked "sociologists" calling themselves real scientists. They somewhat take some measurements of arbitrary human behavior and call it a science. For a recent conference in Seattle, I saw one of the topics was "sociomicrobiology". Oh really? I'll give you social microbes- drinking and conjugating with each other. Like human, like microbe.

Ad Infinitum - nom

There are tiny bacteria and then slightly bigger bacteria that engulf the tiny bacteria. But then there are viruses infecting the big bacteria. Yeah, that's what that stuff is being injected from the viral particle into the big bacterium, nucleic acid. Infinity is a tasty cycle.

doodles of an uninhibited microbiologist

I get a bit loopy after siting at the microscope for hours. Inevitably, I began doodling on the lab ordering board. I now feel my circle-drawing skillage should be displayed publicly.

This first drawing is of common marine microbes (Cytophaga-Flavobacteria, Roseobacter, SAR11, Gamma-proteobacteria) and their affinity for dissolved organic matter (DOM) and other particulate junk floating in the ocean. Some like it (C-F) and others don't so much. SAR11 seems to compete better under low-nutrient conditions. More than you ever wanted to know about marine microbes :)