The buzz about the honey bee microbiome

Imagine you are at a picnic on a nice sunny day. Several bees stop by buzzing around your food particularly intrigued by a bowl of fruit. Though bees may be a nuisance on this particular day, they serve an essential role in the production of much of the food we eat. They produce honey, beeswax and other products we enjoy. Bees are also crucial in pollination and without honey bees, we may not be able to enjoy fruits, nuts, and vegetables that we do today.

In the past decades, the honey bee population have declined rapidly. Between April 2015 and March 2016, beekeepers lost 44.1% of their colonies. This decline in the honey bee population could be due to many reasons including pesticides, parasites, and disease. More curiously, many colonies have fallen to colony collapse disorder (CCD), where adult worker bees die-off and surprisingly, no dead bees are found in or around the hives. The exact cause of CCD is not completely known thought many have attributed pesticides, pathogens, antibiotics, and climate change as the cause. (more…)


The Unseen Cloud Makers from the Ocean

The ocean is teeming with microscopic life that despite their minuscule size, greatly impact our world's ecosystem and climate. A large majority of these organisms are considered planktonic, those that are suspended in the ocean waters and rely on the current for movement. Phytoplankton are a type of plankton that are autotrophic and use just photosynthesis as a carbon source. Not only do they serve as a food source for larger organisms, phytoplankton also produce the majority of the world's oxygen and also play roles in cloud formation. (more…)


Multitudes of life in Ed Yong's I Contain Multitudes

"Remember that animals emerged in a world that had already been teeming with microbes for billions of years. They were the rulers of the planet long before we arrived." -Ed Yong

Last week, I was able to attend Ed Yong's book talk at MIT. At his talk, Yong took us on a journey through his recently published book, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life. In this microbial tour de force, Yong describes the diverse ways microbes interact with plants, animals, humans, and basically anything on this earth. Microbes are ubiquitous and Yong explores the ways microbes may shape our global ecosystem and vice versa. (more…)


Vibrio natriegens as the new E. coli?

Anyone who has dabbled into molecular biology knows that Escherichia coli has been the go-to model organism for quite some time. As an organism that is easy to grow and easy to genetically manipulate in the lab, E. coli has become one of the most commonly used microorganisms in labs that study a variety of biological systems. It has been used to inform the behavior of other bacteria (which may be harder to grow or more difficult to work with). Outside of strictly microbiology research, E. coli has been used to produce many biomolecules by inserting genes needed to produce these molecules into the bacterium. (more…)


Microbes at work in your kimchi

Kimchi is the national dish of South Korea and has become a global trend in the last several years. With its distinct and pungent odor, people seem to either love this stuff or despise it with all their passion. Kimchi is a mixture of vegetables and seasonings that is fermented before it is eaten. It is spicy, salty, and tangy all at the same time. (more…)