Third Microbes in the News

Article and link: A Blazing Hot Coal Shows How Microbes Can Spring to Life   Source: Wired 04/21/19   Link:

Summary: In Centralia many single-celled microbes live in the soil that is on top of the underground mine fire in the coal seam. Due to the fire it was initially thought nothing may have lived, but instead there are many microbes. The same amount of microbes have been found to be living in very hot areas including various thermophiles that microbes that live at geothermal hot springs.

Connections: In class we have briefly studied thermophiles which are heat loving bacteria. We have also looked at the various species of microbes that live in soil, and I find it interesting how natural disasters can affect what microbes are in the soil. We studied factors that can cause microbes to go dormant, which is what can happen during a fire since there is no activity on the soil.

Critical analysis: I thought this article was interesting because it involves microbe activity when a natural disaster occurs and using spores to regrow genomes. The article was well written and contained a large amount of detailed scientific information. It could be rather difficult for the general public to read the article and understand it all though, because of all the technical terms it contains.

Question: What organisms do you think would be likely to live through a fire or other extreme natural disaster? Would they become dormant?



Microbes in the News

Title: For zombie microbes, deep-sea buffet is just out of reach

Date: January 22, 2019

Website: ScienceDaily

Source: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Link to Article:

Summary: This article discusses microbes below the ocean floor that posses some odd characteristics, such as slow-motion growth. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution performed some research on these curious microbes and found that the organisms are not fully utilizing molecules available in their environment. Although the microbes should be able to take advantage of the carbon in the sediment, as it is in a form that they are able to metabolize, they fail to do so. One researcher concluded that the microbes can not access the molecules because they are physically too far away. Moreover, the microbes don’t have sufficient energy to acquire the sporadically located molecules. This research could potentially aid in obtaining further knowledge on not only microbes, but other organisms as well.

Connections: As we have been discussing in both lecture and lab, microbes need specific conditions to survive and reproduce. For example, various agar plates, with differing quantities of ingredients and nutrients, are used to cultivate microbes. The research in this article demonstrates the vast deviance that microbes have from one another. While some need constant access to high levels of nutrients, others, like the ones discussed in the article, can survive by other means. It is vital to be aware of and comprehend these differences when working with microbes both in and out of the lab.

Critical analysis: This article initially caught my eye because of the bizarre title, and I was further intrigued to learn about these microbe’s survival. I was aware that microbes inhabit a prodigious range of environments, however, this article opened my eyes to just how much microbes utilize various resources. Furthermore, I usually associate microbes with rapid reproduction, however, this research reveals that it can take years for cell division to occur. Overall, the article and the research backing it seem scientifically sound. However, from my perspective, this article was slightly misleading, and therefore failed to accurately communicate science to the public. Although I recognize the use of the term “zombie microbes’ in regard to the article, I was expecting different content within the text. I think individuals may incorrectly attribute features to the microbes based on phrases used in reference to the microbes “zombie-like’ characteristics.

Question: The article mentions that the microbial geochemist, Colleen Hansel, asserts “this research may help us understand some of the limitations on life in general’. What applications might this research have in helping us gain information about the world around us (i.e. give an example)?

A2: Microbes in the News Assignment

Microbes in the News !

Over the course of the semester, post 3 different stories involving microbes  from the popular media and then read and comment on 3  posts by other students.


Points: Total possible = 30 points. Earn up to 8 pts for making a post and 2 points for posting a comment. Create 3 posts and 3 comments over the course of the semester.

Deadlines: Posts can be made as soon as you’d like, but for full credit you must post them by these deadlines:

Post 1: Feb. 8

Post 2: April 1

Post 3: April 15

All comments: April 15


Learning Objectives:

– Increase your awareness of microbiology and its role in society

– Expand and apply your knowledge of microbiology

– Practice critical thinking by analyzing popular news media for scientific accuracy

– Develop questions about microbiology

– Help your peers and yourself understand microbiology by answering their questions



Over the course of the semester, create 3 separate Microbes in the News posts on the course website, and then read and comment on 3 Microbes in the News posts by other students. Be sure to follow the guidelines below in order to qualify for  full credit.


Guidelines for creating a post:

Article and link: Enter the title, source, and date of the article and create a link to it. Articles should be from any popular media source (newspaper, magazine, podcast, blog,  etc.) that others can access without hitting a paywall. Any relevant story is acceptable, but challenge yourself to find stories that are current (~within the last 3 months) and that haven’t yet been posted by your peers, whenever possible.

Summary: Write a short summary of the story (just a few sentences is sufficient).

Connections: Explain briefly how this connects to what we’ve covered in class.

Critical analysis: Explain what you found interesting about this story, and what (if anything) you learned. Comment on whether you think the story was scientifically accurate or not. If you noticed any factual inaccuracies or aspects of the story that might inadvertently confuse or misinform readers, identify those and provide a more accurate explanation. Also comment on how this was written. Do you think it did a good job of communicating science to the public? Why or why not?

Question: Write a question about microbiology that you had as a result of reading this story.

Categorize: Categorize your post as “A2: Microbes in the News’ using the categories menu on the right. This will ensure I can find it and give you credit.

Tag: Tag your post based on any relevant microbiological themes by choosing from the tag menu (below categories on the right). Use existing tags when possible, but you can add new ones if needed by clicking “+Add New Category’ link just below the list of tags. This will help us find stories on relevant themes. You can also use these tags to search for other students’ stories on themes that interest you.

Guidelines for commenting on a post:

– Read the news story and the students’ post about it

– Create a comment and write a response to their critical analysis. Do you agree, disagree, or have more to add?

– In your comment, answer their question to the best of your ability. This might require some independent research.