Microbial Trash is Human Treasure, Part II: MudWatt Captures Bacterial Poop!

Microbial Trash is Human Treasure, Part II: MudWatt Captures Bacterial Poop!

The soil under your feet hosts the world’s next clean, sustainable source of energy. Geobacter sp. and Shewanella sp., soil bacteria, “poop” electricity. Actually, their “waste products” are electrons, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide that can be captured in a Microbial Fuel Cell turning microbial “poop” into electricity. Capture the Waste! When any organisms breaks down food, it releases the energy stored in that food in the form of electrons. With most organisms, from mammals to microbes, the electron “waste” binds to oxygen, iron, or sulfur inside the cell(s) of the organism to conduct other processes. Electrogenic bacteria give off their electrons into the soil around them. An MFC captures those lost electrons using electrodes and wire to complete a circuit and generates electrical current. The energy harnessed can then light up a LED, run a clock, thermometer, or any of a number of other things. Electrogenic bacteria can be found naturally in soils all over the world. If the soil is stinky, you’ve found Shewanella and Geobacter having a party. In addition to giving off electron “waste” these electrogenic bacteria release stinky sulfur compounds. Think of the rotten-egg smell of mud in a swamp or marsh. I found a pot of

Microbial “Trash” is Human Treasure

Microbial “Trash” is Human Treasure

We humans have been treasuring and using microbial “trash” for tens of thousands of years. We eat and nurture microbes for their waste products – yes, you eat microbial poop. Metabolic by-products or “waste” would be more appropriate to say in a classroom/polite company, but really – it’s just “poop”. Yogurt, sauerkraut, buttermilk, kefir, bread, beer, wine, cheese, even chocolate, and coffee – are all tasty to us because microbes have eaten the sugars in milk or some plant part. With the exception of corn, whatever you eat goes into your mouth in one form and comes out the other end in a totally different form. Same with microbes. Bacterial Poop: Sugars to Lactic Acid Bacteria like Lactobacillus sp. eat lactose milk sugars and poop out lactic acid. That’s why unflavored, unsugared yogurt is tangy and slightly sour. Same thing with the buttermilk I’ve been culturing recently. YUMMY. Other Lactobacillus sp. eat plant fiber sugars and poop out lactic acid to make sauerkraut and kimchee. Check out a yogurt experiment my girls and I did a while ago. Yes, the girls roll their eyes when I say that they are eating microbial “trash”. Fungal Farts: Sugars to alcohol and carbon

Ask Professor Microbe: Should I buy refrigerated probiotics?

Ask Professor Microbe: Should I buy refrigerated probiotics?

“Hey Professor Microbe” – the text from my next-door neighbor read – “What probiotics are better for me to buy, the ones on the shelf or the ones that are refrigerated?” Professor Microbe (Anne @mostlymicrobes): “Why are you buying probiotics?” Neighbor: “General gut health” PM: “Don’t! Spend the money on PRE-biotics – fruits, veggies, and live fermented foods.” Probiotics are quite the established health fad with over 36.6 billion USD in sales in 2015! WOAH! In general, we don’t need them. The average person who eats a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables feeds their own personal “probiotics” in their digestive system, primarily the large intestine. Feed what you have. Think whole grains and “Eat a Rainbow” of different colors and kinds of plants. My favorite gut microbiome-food book talking about good eating and the gut microbiome is The Good Gut. For an idea of what my family and I eat, check out my Instagram feed or #feedthemicrobes. “When should a healthy person take probiotics?” Pretty much just after taking wide spectrum antibiotics. These antibiotics kill many different kinds of bacteria – invading pathogens and your native microbes (tetracyclines, cephalosporins, aminopenicillins (ampicillin, amoxicillin)). For people with medical issues, I

Foldscope: How Can a Functional Microscope be Made Out of Paper?

Foldscope: How Can a Functional Microscope be Made Out of Paper?

So I keep babbling about Foldscopes because – THEY ARE REALLY COOL! These are out of a Stanford lab developed with funds from the Gates Foundation to help defeat Malaria. As a scientist and mom, there are a trillion things to do with these things. Time and time again, when I talk about these scopes to people I get the same shocked look and question – “How can a PAPER microscope work?” Followed usually by a question on where they can get one for their kid, classroom, science outreach, own backpack/purse. Here’s our experience with the basic Foldscope. Keep in mind, that if you support one of the kits, you get additional accessories. We received the paper scope, lenses, magnetic clips (for cell phone photography), and double stick tape, which is a perfect start. As a certified microbial geek, I had slides and cover slips around the house. Assembly Party We invited a neighborhood friend over for our first “assembly” party. Which was lots of fun! First the girls popped out the scope parts. Watching the assembly video helped us put our scopes together.     Differences between Foldscope and Compound Scopes Unlike traditional compound scopes where the lens is

11 days left for Foldscope – origami microscopes – on Kickstarter

11 days left for Foldscope – origami microscopes – on Kickstarter

When I first heard that Foldscope was launching a Kickstarter to make these amazing origami paper microscopes available to the public, I put 2 different questions up on several of my social media sites: I’m thrilled out of my mind to be writing a post about this new good quality, “disposable”, CHEAP compound (uses microscope slides) microscope. Oh yeah – it’s 140X magnification – you can see bacteria What would you look at if you had such a thing? It’s practically indestructible (can step on it, throw it off a building, run it through the washing machine), it’s about the size of a 3X5 card and fits in your pocket. Runs on watch battery or just held up to a light. If you are a “career-biologist” – How would you use this to teach people about the wonders of science and our everyday (microscopic) world? If you are not a career-biologist – Just wondering what would be interesting to YOU. Is there anything you’d use it for? The feedback was AMAZING! Check out the suggestions and excitement: From the biologists look at: Take my kids on a TARDIGRADE hunt Pond water, leaf litter, whatever is around me Blood and fecal smears with