What Kind of Life Wood You See in Fairbanks?

This is my abstract interpretation of the decomposition of spruce and the interacting systems in a subarctic climate such as Fairbanks, with a focus on the fungi you may find on a piece of decomposing (as well as  living) spruce (left to right: lichens, slime mold, and turkey tails). The array of color in the background serves as a reminder of the diversity of the interacting systems, both biotic and abiotic. The plants on this piece represent the living features in an  healthy ecosystem, such as the different plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, archaea, and viruses that  inhabit that ecosystem. The soil on this  piece  is in reference  to  nutrient cycling within a system of decomposition, as well as the soil the wood will ultimately become part of and that many decomposing microbes  inhabit.    The symmetry and mixture of media serve to show the balance between the biotic/abiotic factors in a healthy subarctic habitat.

I chose this as my project because the there are so many components that go into the decomposition [of wood] that I had previously underestimated. Also, when you typically  envision   “nature” in Fairbanks, you may think: birch, spruce, squirrels, ravens, fireweed, etc., but the   great diversity of microbes within  the environment is typically less prominent. I felt it was important to highlight the interactions and results of microbes in a forest system.

I picked these fungi because as I was choosing a log from my wood pile to cut for this project, I saw 2/3 of these fungi on some of the logs. All of the plants in this piece are were found outside of my house.

**After painting this I found out slime molds(middle log)  are no longer categorized as fungi, but eukaryotes… so it’s really the interactions of fungi and eukaryotes.

Researchers Discover Antifungal Agent from Pathogen Box Project

Article:Researchers Discover Antifungal Agent from Pathogen Box Project                

Source: American Society for Microbiology



The pathogen box, which is  an open-source drug discovery project, is seeking to find/create solutions to under-researched/neglected diseases. Researchers can receive this pathogen box, which is composed of 96 well plates with different compounds (thought to be anti-microbial agents, or known to have certain effects on microbes), for free as long as they report any findings within 2 years. In recent tests, a compound targeting cell walls and membranes in fungi (with low toxicity to humans) could potentially be used to treat common fungal infections Cryptococcus neoformans and Candida albicans.


In class we have discussed finding different antibiotic targets for fungi, and the difficulty with doing so due to the physiological similarities between  humans and fungi.

Critical Analysis:

I found it interesting that there is an ongoing project like this, with seemingly high potential, that is actually providing a vast amount of knowledge on antibacterial targets. This is actually a really great idea, the fact that the boxes are free to researchers as long as data is shared in order to add to a database is really creative and cool. I feel like techniques like this could really be used to stimulate interest and action in certain subfields and topics. This article was well written, interesting and pertinent to bio students, but simple enough  for non-bio folk to have no problems reading and comprehending.


I would like to know how popular the pathogen box is (as far as how many people are using it) and what data they have gathered thus far (since its start in 2015).

The Influence of the Microbiome on Allergic Sensitization to Food

Article: The Influence of the Microbiome on Allergic Sensitization to Food
Source: The Journal of Immunology

Within the last 50 years, there has been a major increase in the frequency of allergic diseases in developed countries such as the US. Genetics, combined with diet changes/improved sanitation/increased antibiotic and vaccination use, can be attributed with this change. These changes lead to a change in the makeup of the human microbiota, altering not only diversity but frequency as well. Specific species of bacteria can have a multitude of different effects on the body. The presence of certain gut microbes, such as E. coli, can help to stimulate a state known as “endotoxin tolerance,” which is thought to provide a protective effect against inflammatory responses. On a similar note, individuals with a lower risk of food allergies were found to have a higher prevalence of Bifidobacterium while those with a higher risk of food allergies was found to have a higher prevalence of Bacterioids. The makeup of your microbiota can have major impacts not only on your overall health but also on the way your body reacts to certain chemicals.

The article discusses the human microbiome and the effects of its’ diversity and makeup on health and inflammatory response.

Critical Analyses:
I enjoyed the connections made between the human microbiota and human health/wellness. There is such a large connection between these, yet the field is so understudied it’s difficult to see its’ potential. One of the coolest thing I learned from this article is that when colonized with low-immunostimulatory microbiota in early life, aspects of immune education can be impaired resulting in predispostions to inflammatory diseases. This article is not a good read for those not strongly versed in scientific terminology, and is somewhat difficult for even bio students to fully comprehend due to terminology used.

How much of the field of preventative medicine is focused on the connection between the microbiota and human health? I’m curious about this because I feel like the field has so much potential, yet there doesn’t seem to be much emphasis on the microbiota and overall health.

Microbial Art

Through all the [gram]negative blows UAF has been taking recently, remember that there is always room for beauty and creativity.
Because EMB is selective for gram-negative species, I used 2 different gram negative strains to create the UAF-EMB plate. EMB  is also  a differential medium,  sucrose within the EMB allows for fermentation leading to a color change in the eosin dye. Both strains were fermenters, and therefore produced a red (species produced less acid) and black coloration. I used 2 different species in order to have varying color throughout the plate.

I wanted this plate to illustrate the awesome concepts we get to explore here at UAF through our science programs. We obviously need greater awareness.

Sunny side up

I really just wanted to make a cool, sun/mandala-type design with the TSA plate… My goal was to incorporate many colors… especially bright colors

Microbes Dress for Success: Tolerance or Resistance?

Microbes Dress for Success: Tolerance or Resistance? From: Trends In Microbiology, published January 2017

Article Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0966842X1630169X

Summary: “Tolerance,” in terms of host-invader relationship, has long been thought to be attributed to the immune system within the organism. Although the immune system plays the majority role, recent theories have come to include that some members of the intestinal microbiota have developed mechanisms to encourage tolerance defenses and resistance in their hosts. Recent studies have shown some interesting results on this topic, with results in agreement with the theory. One example of this can be seen in a study done on the microbiota of mice; one microorganism was found to promote tolerance to numerous infections by mediating communications between bodily systems.

Connections: Different microbes serve different purposes and have specific “designs” that play a crucial role in their environment. Possible modifications which allow for a symbiotic relationship between both host and intestinal microbe can help us to better understand the interactions between host, microbe,   and invading   microbes.

Critical Analysis: This article contained multiple examples of the topic while also providing a good connection between them and the point to be proved. The article was written in a style that was easy to read (for  a college student) and was relatively easy for someone not in the field of biology (besides general terminology) and was an interesting read. I found the idea of a more diverse host-microbe relationship quite interesting.

Question: What other microbial interactions and symbiotic relationships exist within the intestinal microbiota?