No Bacterium is an Island

By Isaac Klimasmith ’20   When John Donne proclaimed that “no man is an island”(1), he recognized the connections that bind humanity together. But just as people function socially and spiritually in a world defined by interaction and connection, so do the biological systems within us. The 1,000 species of bacteria that call the human … 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

Recombination Does Not Hinder Prokaryotic Speciation

The biological species concept has dominated thinking about the origin of species since the 1940s, owing to the influential work of Ernst Mayr. The central idea behind the BSC is that recurrent recombination prevents populations from diverging into new species that are irreversibly separate; therefore, genetic exchange between populations must be severely reduced before they … Read more

The (rare!!) brain-eating amoeba in warm ponds

  Here I’m trying once again to offer tales from microbial ecology to make swimmers’ and divers’ lives better. As an open-water swimming enthusiast, I was particularly intrigued by this article on an amoeba that people can get from swimming in nature, particularly in warm water. This tale made me grateful that my open-water swimming … Read more

Swimmers’ flu and probiotics

The swim season comes at an awful time, epidemiologically speaking. It runs from November 1 through mid-February and longer for those star athletes competing in postseason. Timed perfectly to coincide with the peak of the cold and flu season! It’s been known for a long time that moderate exercise helps the immune system fight off … Read more

A new column on swimming and infection

As faculty advisor for Wesleyan’s Swimming and Diving team, I’m trying to give the athletes useful information as well as I can. I am a schlepper swimmer and have no special advice on how athletes can keep healthy and strong through swimming. I’ll leave that to our talented and dedicated coach Peter Solomon. So I … Read more

Ancient Bacteria

We are Oliver Goodman, Alexa Boesel, and Fred Cohan from Wesleyan University, and here is our next story for Invisible Life! We all know Death Valley’s Badwater Basin to be a harsh place, covered with a thick layer of salty sediments. What might this salt flat have to do with preserving life? It would seem … Read more

The Microbes We Should Be Thankful For

Thomas Kim, Wesleyan class of 2016 Antibiotics have prevented deadly pathogens from killing us for many decades now. However, widespread abuse of antibiotics has led to antibiotic resistance in our pathogens, causing at least 2 million deaths per year. Moreover, the repercussions of antibiotic abuse appear to go way beyond resistance. In his book Missing … Read more