Life in Our Phage World published!

January 18, 2015
Have you ever wondered about the tiny viruses that are everywhere, on everything, in every organism? What do they look like? Where do they live? Who are they related to? What information is in their genomes? What do they do all day long? 

These questions are answered in Life in Our Phage World, a book I recently co-authored with Forest Rohwer, Merry Youle, Nao Hisakawa, and a brilliant group of phage researchers. Full of short action stories, and beautifully illustrated by Leah Pantea and Ben Darby, this book will not disappoint! 

For more information, and to download a free PDF, please see Forest's website.

Here's to 100 years of phage research! 
 

Intriguing impurities

May 23, 2013

Many microbiologists begin their workday by opening up the incubator shaker and taking out a culture flask; they then swirl it around to examine the progression of cell growth. They can examine the turbidity of the broth to tell if cells are reproducing as planned. Opening up the lid and sniffing the culture will tell seasoned microbiologists if they’re growing what they think they’re growing, because many bacterial species produce signature aromas. But w...


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Picoplankton post

March 29, 2013
My first contribution to the Small Things Considered blog: 
 

A Day in the Life: Eavesdropping on Marine Picoplankton


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Mite-y resistance

January 16, 2013
When faced with a challenge, animals have the ability to physically move away. Plants are not so lucky. Their interactions with the soil prevent them from up-rooting and finding a better place. But this does not mean that plants don't fight back. Indeed, plants produce an astonishing diversity of chemicals to ward off invaders, such as the ubiquitous arthropod pests. Many of these naturally produced chemicals are analogous to manufactured pesticides, in that they provide a strong selective pr...
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RNA for the bees

December 31, 2012
Becoming a beekeeper can be overwhelming at times. One of the most difficult things for me is figuring out how and when to treat the hives to prevent pathogens and parasites from becoming too numerous. We have attended an Integrated Pest Management course but only walked away with a list of offenders and their chemical treatments, which we had already learned through online research. Why not just treat for all, as often as possible? I'd rather not dump these chemicals (several of which are an...
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Reveling in Ronin

December 21, 2012
The Ronin Institute is a group of scholars that are trying something different.  Recognizing that one need not work at a university to contribute to knowledge, scholars of the Ronin Institute will be conducting research independently, as they find time in between life's activities (e.g., kids, hobbies, other jobs).  This is a timely endeavor as many more PhDs are being obtained than faculty positions are available.  And for many of us, university jobs are becoming less attractive as hours inc...
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Probiotic puzzle

December 4, 2012
Probiotics are live bacteria, formulas of single or multiple species, provided to help establish a healthy gastrointestinal tract.  Probiotics are a hot topic these days, and a potent marketing tool. Despite their popularity, we often don't know if they really work to relieve intestinal problems.  And for those probiotics that do work, we almost never know their mechanism(s) of action.   

Olier and colleagues have taken us a step closer to understanding the mechanism of probiotic action.  They...

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Bacterial relocation II

November 26, 2012
Continuing on the subject of bacteriotherapy, there was a fascinating paper out last month in PLoS Pathogens by Lawley et al. As I said in the last post, C. difficile infection of the gut is bad news, and one of the best cures is fecal transplantation.  Lawley et al. describe experiments in a mouse model that closely approximates the situation in humans.  They showed that the epidemic strain of C. difficile 027/BI is much more of a terror than other strains, as the bug was highly contagious a...
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Bacterial relocation

November 4, 2012
Warning: Here comes the icky diarrhea blog.  Because I primarily write about microbiota, this was only a matter of time as the literature is replete with gut microbiota studies.  This abundance is due to lots of money being poured into figuring out the role of the gut microbiota; they are likely to influence a plethora of diseases through their role in immune system development, and fecal samples are easy to obtain!

Fecal samples are also relatively easy to transplant.  This may sound gross be...
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Hurricane highway

October 31, 2012
Monday we made sure all of the objects in our yard were secure, to prevent the winds of Sandy from giving them flight.  We didn't know what to expect and didn't want to see our patio table jump through our window.  Luckily the winds didn't do any damage and we're all okay (and dry).

This got me thinking about bacterial dispersal, and how high winds like those in a hurricane really stir things up. Ocean water columns are mixed, ocean waters come ashore, terrestrial soil becomes airborne, tree l...

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About Me


I am a biologist and writer. My most recent adventure has been to leave the comforts of academic life in the city, and start my own freelance business on a farm! At this blog you can read about all of this: from my thoughts and opinions on scientific research, to my trials and errors as a budding gardener and beekeeper.