It’s been a creative and rewarding first year for the Microbial Sciences blog at ASM.org. We’ve expanded the science communication frontier of the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) and had a lot of fun writing and editing along the way. This is my summary of the seven articles I wrote for the ASM blog in 2016. The stories I told and the images I captured came from the lab, from Yellowstone National Park, the desert of Utah, the Rocky Mountains of Montana, a zoo in Amsterdam, a tiny world within swamp moss and a rind of cheddar cheese.
A story that takes place where I work on the top floor of the HIM building at Harvard Medical School, inspired by a microbial odor coming from a walk-in incubator. I trace the odor back to the refreshing smell of the forest, to the molecule geosmin and the Streptomyces bacteria that produce it. May 2016.
The first of a three part series based on my microbial adventures in the National Parks of the U.S.A., on the year that the National Park Service celebrated its 100 year anniversary. This was my favorite article of the year to write – it’s the story of how my brother and I turned around when we planned to leave Yellowstone to go back for more night time photography at the hot springs. The article brings in microbial science of hot springs, thermophiles, astrobiology, cyanobacteria and stromatolites. July 2016.
The second part of my series based on adventures in U.S. National Parks, this story follows my expedition into the desert of Utah to locate remote stromatolite fossils left behind by microbial communities that lived in the Jurassic period. July 2016.
The third part of my series based on adventures in U.S. National Parks is a bear story. While hiking to the site of Precambrian stromatolite fossils in Glacier National Park in Montana, my brother and I encountered a mother grizzly bear with a cub, walking towards us on the same trail. Find out what happened (while learning about a recent study of the Grizzly bear gut microbiome). August 2016.
Julie Wolf and I co-wrote this article – another one of my favorites from the year. We begin with the history of zoos in ancient Egypt as an introduction to the new idea to bring microbes into zoos and natural history museums. We write about Micropia in Amsterdam, a recent temporary exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the upcoming Microbial Life exhibition at the Harvard Museum of Natural History (HMNH). August 2016.
In my most abstract article of the year, I reflect on the 2016 presidential election by zooming down to the level of a tardigrade living in the swamp moss microbiome. I argue that images of natural microbiomes and Deep Field images collected by the Hubble Space Telescope are both are humbling ways to appreciate our place in nature. November 2016.
The final article of my three favorites of the year – this article is based on work I have done this year on cheese rind microbial communities in preparation for the HMNH Microbial Life exhibition. It was also an opportunity to expand the microbial science behind my time-lapse video from the 2016 Nikon Small World in Motion Competition. December 2016.