Human Microbiota

Because I have an utter fascination with the great diversity and complexity of the human microbiome, I decided to construct a project on that field of research. My goal  for this final project was to create a piece that was aesthetically pleasing, yet symbolic to the true nature of the human microflora. The various small dots are symbolic of the numerous microorganisms that reside on the human body that contribute to our overall genome.

Extra Credit: Microbial Worlds

  1. Mysterious Underground, Mycorrhizae’ — Collaboration by Charlotte Bird and Ree Nancarrow

The concept behind this piece was to illuminate the story of the symbiotic relationship between fungi and vascular plants in the coastal and boreal forests. I find this piece to be so esthetically pleasing. The amount of detail that these artists include in the piece is truly admirable. I really enjoy how they chose a quilt to depict this microbial relationship. When I think of a quilt, I think of all of the interconnecting stitching which contribute to the entire piece overall. In a similar fashion, the microorganisms present underneath the grounds surface together work to create that particular habitat. I do feel that these artists were successful in expressing this particular relationship based on the little knowledge of what the underground truly looks like.

  1. Veiled Unveiled’ — Mariah Henderson and Eric Henderson

The idea behind this particular piece was to depict the concept of invisible microorganisms. Although the discovery and analysis of microbial organism has been greatly aided by the microscope, there are still numerous organisms that are unseen due to their transparent bodies. I found this piece to be very aesthetically pleasing due to the vibrant dye that was added to this particular media to unveil the microbial growth. I feel that this piece directly relates to the importance of staining in a laboratory setting in order to better visualize the microbes present.

  1. The Prokaryotes’ — Mariah Henderson and Eric Henderson

Consistently throughout the semester we have referred back to the tree of life depicting the phylogenetic relationship between the three major domains of life. It is often assumed that Eukaryotes are the most abundant and diverse domain on Earth. As we quickly learned in this course, prokaryotic life forms, including Bacteria and Archaea, greatly outnumber this taxon. The piece created really emphasizes the great diversity present in this domain of life and how they are evolutionarily connected through this phylogenetic tree.

  1. If I were an artist involved in this project, I would have focused on the human microbiome and its affect on human health by constructing a collage or perhaps through a poem.

New Arms Race: Science versus Antibiotic Resistant Superbugs

article link:

Summary:  Alexander Fleming’s discovery of Penicillin in 1928 played a crucial role in increasing the death rate of microbes in the early 20th century. However, a few years later following its use in medicine, reports of penicillin-resistant bacteria arose. The first penicillin-resistant strain, Staphylococcus aureus, was identified in 1947. The European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) published a report in 2009 stating that the number of deaths caused by infections due to antibiotic resistant bacteria in Europe, Iceland, and Norway was estimated to roughly 25,000 each year. A contributing factor the prevalence of antibiotic resistance infections has to do with the degree of use of a particular antibiotic. Despite the numerous technological advances have been made in the 21st century, combating antibiotic resistance has posed a major problem. Many pharmaceutical companies do not want to consider antibiotic development because they do not believe it to be a beneficial investment. Antibiotics are generally much cheaper to develop compared to other medicines and are typically used for only a short duration of time.  

Connections: I thought that this was a very appropriate article  since we are testing antibiotic resistance and susceptibility on our own isolates.

Critical Analysis: This article was really eye opening in regards to the prevalence of antibiotic resistant infections worldwide. Although the information and data collected for this article was primarily from the European region, antibiotic resistance is still a major issue in other countries. It was rather interesting to learn why the development of new antibiotics has not been utilized to combat this problem. For example, numerous pharmaceutical companies do not find it a priority to develop new antibiotics since they are typically cheaper to produce, but are used for a shorter period of time compare to more expensive drugs. To me, it seems as if this issue is becoming more of a political or economic issue

Questions: Would producing more antibiotics be enough to combat the prevalence of already existing antibiotic resistant infections?

Extra Credit: Eric Collins

Eric Collins’ seminar primarily focused on the oceanography of the Arctic Ocean and the microbial diversity that is present in this marine environment. He discusses the variation present in microbial communities at various levels of seawater. For instance, the deep-water layer may exhibit different microbial diversity when compared to the Atlantic layer. His research is aimed at determining how those differences came about and how much of that variation is a due to the water that it came from.

Collins’ discusses potential factors that contribute to diversity of marine environments. For instance, he touches on the fact that ice formation and melting can influence microbial communities because they tend to change overtime due to changes in flow of water and melting of glaciers. He discusses how this has had a negative impact on the environment and organisms that are present in this environment due to the rapid melting of ice during the spring months.

Along with variation in water flow and ice formation, Collins’ also discusses how the nutrient and salt concentrations can have an impact on the microbes present. For instance, he mentions how the Atlantic water is much saltier when compared to the water of the pacific. Also, warm, traveling water is very low in nutrient concentrations when compared to deep, arctic water.

I really appreciated how Collin’s incorporated a little oceanography in his presentation to give his audience a more in depth background into the sites that his data was collected. It was rather interesting to further learn about all the potential causes of marine microbial diversity. One question that I considered during this presentation is  whether or not there is  anyway to determine the rate at which the ice is melting and if there is any current research being conducted that analyzes possible factors that could limit the rate at which the melting is occurring?

Painting with Microbes

 For each plate I inoculated, I decided to replicate the same design in order to determine the impact the change in media would have on the various bacteria. I performed my microbe paintings on all three agar plates that were  provided. I sought to construct an abstract design with my painting, which ended up closely resembling the shape of a flower. I used the same bacterial strains on each plate so that I could compare the result on each media. The downfall of my paintings are that I observed some of the bacterial colonies consolidating together, leading to some blending  in coloration due to possible culture mixing during the inoculation process.

Extra Credit: Simon Lax

Simon’s seminar was primarily concerned with analyzing our personal relationship that we share with the microbes present in our surrounding environment. As he states very early on in his presentation, the microorganisms in which encounter in our day-to-day lives greatly shape our own microbiome and our immunological health. Our microbiome and our relation to our microbial sources is significantly changing as we become an “indoor species.’ It is estimated that the human species spend about 90% of their time indoors. As Lax states, this change is resulting because these particular “built’ environments are simulated to limit the amount of microbial growth.

His personal research regarding this field of study consisted of various sample collections from different sources throughout candidates’ households. 16S RNA sequences  were targeted to analyze the resemblance of the human micrbiome with their innate surroundings. The results of his research indicate that the surfaces in these test subjects’ homes strongly resembled the microbiome of the individual. For example, he discovered that the floors of the home in which they reside.

Despite the fact that I had a little difficulty following this lecture, I found that the concepts he touched on were rather fascinating. I was very interested in his remarks concern an individual’s “microbial signature.’ It was really interesting for me to consider how an individual’s microbiome is subject to change once they leave their built environment. I feel that this research that he has conducted thus far has been rather supplemental to the field of microbiology, by allowing us to consider how our environment impacts of individual microbiome. It also reiterates the importance of microorganisms to the human body and the important role they possess in our daily lives.

A new genetic tool maps how deadly viruses spread around the world in real time


Summary:  Advances are continually being made to better deal with epidemics, such as Ebola and Zika, on a global scale. Researchers, Richard Neher and Trevor Bradford, developed a genetic tool that maps how viruses spread in real time. They termed their invention NextStrain. Although it can’t yet predict the outbreak of a virus, this tool is particularly useful in tracking the spread of a disease once it has begun its invasion.

Connections: With our recent lecture regarding viruses, I found this to be a perfect article to highlight the advances being made in the field of virology to monitor and potentially limit global epidemics.

Critical Analysis:  What was interesting to me about this article was that this project was founded during the peak of the Ebola epidemic. This makes me wonder how useful this form of technology would have been prior to the outbreak. Although this seems like it could be groundbreaking for the field of virology, I feel that there could potentially be issues with this genetic tool. One limitation to this technology is getting more scientists to support it and use it. Many are skeptical to using it because many scientific journals require that data not be shared with society until publication. Also, the Open Science Prize is currently funding this project. Once funds run out, they’re unsure if any public-health agency will take it over and keep it running it.

Questions:  Based on what these two researchers have been able to do with targeting the spread of viruses, is there any current research being performed that attempts to determine which mutation will give the virus the  potential to initiate  an epidemic?

Microbes in our gut have been with us for millions of years

Article Link:


There is a common misconception of where and how humans acquire the microbes that are currently present in their bodies. Some studies suggest that microbes are more likely to be rather than acquired. Others suggest that an organism’s diet plays a direct role in the presence of particular bacteria in our guts. In order to settle the dilemma, a study was conducted involving the isolation of gut bacteria from fecal samples from various mammalian species, including apes and humans. DNA analysis and gene sequencing was used to create family trees. This revealed that the majority of gut microbes found in the mammalian gut have evolved with us over time. They discovered that two major families of gut bacterial strains in apes and humans trace back to a common ancestor more than 15 million years ago. These microbes have evolved over a long period of time to better train our immune systems, and also play a role in regulating our moods and behaviors.


Since the beginning of the semester, we have discussed the truly phenomenal and fascinating aspects of the microbial community and the important role they play in human health.

Critical Analysis:

This article was rather fascinating in regards to the role microbes play in mammalian species. It truly baffles me that the majority of the strains of bacteria found in the human body have been with us for many centuries. It also really demonstrates the fact that not all microbes are as harmful as many assume them to be.

Questions: Would this be a reliable and accurate method for  study the evolutionary history of the human species and their migratory patterns?