Beneficial Microorganisms in Humans and Corals

By Samantha Zuniga-Levy, Wesleyan ‘19 From Peixoto et al. 2017   What do you do when you’re having digestive issues? Assuming of course, that these issues are ongoing and not simply the result of some questionable fast food you ate last night, you might consider taking probiotics. Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms that, when ingested by … Read more

A Warning from The Steppe

By Isaac Klimasmith ’20 The human body operates within tightly controlled parameters. Normal body temperature is 36.5–37.5 °C. A degree departure from that either way is a fever or hypothermia. Two more degrees above normal is a life-threatening coma. Feedback loops, chains of sensors and signals in the body, regulate this delicate balance. The hypothalamus, … Read more

Meet Pantoea alhagi, Wheat’s Microbial Helper

  Sam Zuniga-Levy Wes ’19 What is the connection between the recent conflict in Syria and a new scientific study involving bacteria that promote plant health? Two words: climate change. According to a New York Times article by Henry Fountain, Syria experienced an extreme drought from 2006-2009 that was most likely due to climate change. The … Read more

Kiritimatiellaeota: A Case of Identity

By Isaac Klimasmith ’20 A case of concealed identity. True form unearthed, hiding in plain sight. A complicated backstory revealed. In short, all the trappings of a good Sherlock Holmes story. This is not a fictional tale written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but one written by evolution and adaptation. The players are not detectives … Read more

Bacterial Conversion of CO2 to Lipids: A Sustainable Fuel Source

by Sam Zuniga-Levy ’19 As fossil fuel reserves decline while atmospheric CO2 levels rise, the search for methods of obtaining sustainable sources of energy continually attracts the spotlight. The two primary criteria for assessing the sustainability of fuels are that they 1) are renewable and 2) produce minimal (if any) greenhouse gas emissions. A recent … Read more

“Wolf Pack” and “Vampire” Bacteria: The Secret Life of Predatory Microbes

By Hannah Steinberg ’16 Have you ever wondered what bacteria eat? The answer to this question is as diverse as the bacterial kingdom itself. Bacterial species absorb nutrients from their surrounding environments. Many microbes that live in the ground get what they need to survive from organic molecules found in the soil, and the commensal … Read more

A Sampling of Plague Throughout Time

By Hannah Steinberg ’16 On Halloween day the number one trending topic on Facebook was “Crook County, Oregon: Teenage Girl Diagnosed With Bubonic Plague.” What is scarier and more holiday-appropriate than this? A young girl in the year 2015 contracted one of history’s deadliest diseases. A bacterium that wiped out a third to half of … Read more

Rock Snot

Each year, almost 3 million people from around the world make the journey to northwestern Montana’s Glacier National Park. One of Glacier’s most popular destination points is Iceberg Lake, whose icy waters have enticed hundreds to jump in (many miles from medical care!). For visitors who take the plunge, global warming seems far away, yet … Read more

Speedy Speciation in Bacteria

Microbiologists have identified over a hundred phyla of bacteria, groups that are astonishingly disparate in their cell architecture, physiology, biochemistry, and most importantly, their ecology. Our lab has been interested for decades in the first step toward this ecological diversification. This is speciation, where one lineage splits into two “ecotypes” that can coexist indefinitely as … Read more

The Microbes that Never Sleep

by Thomas Kim, Wesleyan ‘16 New York City public transportation moves millions of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut commuters to work every day. If you have ever been on the subway during rush hour, you know how cramped and crowded a subway car can be. Just imagine sardines in a can and that’s what New … Read more