Floods and foods, dogs protecting cats and microbial munchers

This post contributed by Molly Taylor, ESA Science Writing Intern. Tiny critters: Though all smaller than a millimeter in size, four critters highlighted by Neatorama are much larger in effectiveness. When there is no oxygen around to speak of (or to breathe in), shewanella inhales the likes of uranium and chromium. The bacterium exhales the toxic metals with a few extra electrons, which prevents the toxins from moving through ground...

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Shrew poo and worm goo are science too

Last week I had the pleasure of being a speaker at Buck Lodge Middle School’s Career Day. Several public schools in Maryland, where Buck Lodge is located, and other states organize important events like these to get students thinking about future opportunities. Do you remember what it was like to be in middle school? To the middle school me, a career seemed distant, vague and, frankly, too overwhelming to really think about. But the...

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Ecology in pop music, comic books and foodies’ delights

Recipes for lionfish and other invasive species, the microbial communities likely inhabiting Lady Gaga and other humans, hidden ecosystems in caves and underneath Antarctica, explaining evolution through a graphic novel and the big flavor of tiny life forms. Here are the latest stories in ecology for the first week in January 2011. Invasivore’s cookbook: Discover’s Discoblog listed a couple of ways that citizens could help to manage...

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Trust your gut, it controls more than you may know

Most people are familiar with the role of DNA: A set of genetic instructions on how a particular living organism should function. This nucleic acid has been widely explored as a way to identify individuals, define illnesses or hereditary diseases and contribute to behavior, among many other clues about an individual. However, there may be another complex feature of human anatomy that influences many surprising aspects of human...

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Spontaneous fermentation: the role of microorganisms in beer

The four main ingredients in most modern beer recipes are water, a starch such as barley (usually malted), hops and yeast. And each ingredient has a very specific role in the brewing process. Any home brewer knows that the quality of the water used in brewing beer can significantly impact the flavor of the finished product. For example, excessive amounts of fluoride in the tap water can alter the flavor (and then some) of beer, not to...

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Gut flora and the human rainforest

Scientists have known for decades that the human intestinal tract is home to an abundance of diverse bacteria. This microbial rainforest is introduced incrementally to infants as they grow—primarily from their mothers during birth and breastfeeding and from everyday encounters. Many of these microbes aid in digestion and fight off pathogens, but until recently, researchers were not certain if phages, viruses that infect bacteria, were...

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From the Community: genetically altered salmon, microbes on dogs’ paws and anchovy roulette

Genetically altered animals come closer to approval, global climate change extends the time space junk orbits the Earth, researchers develop a method to identify and analyze whale vocalizations, artists shape messages about the planet’s health and female mollies prefer a more mustachioed mate. Here are highlights in ecology from the last week in June. Genetically altered salmon: Genetically modified salmon—Atlantic salmon containing a...

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Water pollution turns microbes virulent

An idyllic lake turns threatening when heavy rainfall causes a sewage treatment plant to overflow. Within 24 hours, once-benign microbes turn into virulent pathogens, breeding incessantly and attacking the embryos of lake fish. As much as that may sound like the synopsis of a movie on Mystery Science Theater, this is an impact on lake ecosystems that is actually occurring. It is widely accepted that nutrient enrichment and pollution...

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