A2: Microbes in the News – Scientists Discover Nearly 200,000 Kinds of Ocean Viruses




Researchers have assembled data from a global sampling expedition using genomic analysis and have increased the number of known oceanic viruses twelvefold.


This is a story of people using the tools which we have been using to study the viruses we have been studying and improve the body of knowledge we have in this field.

Critical Analysis:

While microbiology has been studied in some manner since the early days of science the changes in the accuracy or our tools and the price of using them can dramatically change what we are able to accomplish. This article is just one example of how much more there is to learn in this field.


With a single study able to make such a large impact on the amount known, the question becomes how much more is there to know? I would not be at all surprised to see another twelvefold increase with the next study and another after that. If there is one thing that I have learned from this class it is that the microscopic world holds a multitude of secrets yet to be discovered.

Microbes in the News #3 – A Changing Ocean (Sage Robine)

Article:  Study: Much of the surface ocean will shift in color by end of 21st century

(https://news.mit.edu/2019/study-ocean-color-change-phytoplankton-climate-0204) –> MIT News, February 4, 2019

Summary:  Researchers at MIT have developed a model that simulates how the colours of the ocean may change over the next 100 years due to climate change. Their model looks at the colours of the ocean as seen from a satellite, where green hues indicate a greater concentration of algae and phytoplankton while dark blue hues indicate a lack of significant algae growth. Their model predicted that the subtropics will turn a deeper blue colour, indicating less phytoplankton growth and therefore less life in general. Meanwhile, the poles may turn a darker shade of green from increased algae blooms due to warming temperatures. These changes in levels of algal growth mean that entire food webs could be significantly altered by the end of the century, which would have significant impacts worldwide.

Connections:  This article is a good reflection of how microbial ecology can have a big impact on our world. Changes in microbial activity in the oceans over the next century could be big enough to be seen from space! And since life in the ocean is very dependent on levels of microbial growth (microbes make up the base of most ocean food webs) these changes could have dramatic impacts on all domains of life.

Critical Analysis:  I really enjoyed reading this article. It was easy to read and seemed to summarize the MIT study really well. I am somewhat cautious about this model, because I have not seen proof of its face and predictive validity, but I am sure if I read the entire peer-reviewed paper in depth it would prove to be a fairly accurate model for ocean colour change. Overall, this article was well-written, informative, accurate and easy to understand.

Question:  If the algal growth in our oceans changes as much as it is supposed to, how can we model these impacts on ocean food webs and what would those models show us?

A2: Microbes in the News- Phytoplankton




This article explains that the World’s oceans are going to change color as a result of climate change. Researchers point out that the base of the food chain in the oceans is phytoplankton. With an increase in water temperature, the phytoplankton will die, resulting in an ocean that is not as green (as phytoplankton have green pigment from the chloroplasts). This article also explained that by using the color of the ocean one can deduce the population of phytoplankton, therefore getting more data on how global warming is affecting the world.


We have been learning in class the different properties of microorganisms. Right now we are learning how the metabolism works. By understanding this concept, I can use my knowledge to fully understand how an increase in temperature would affect the microorganism’s ability to acquire food and survive. Furthermore, we have been learning in class how different microorganisms can change the environment that they are in.

Critical Analysis

I found this story interesting because I liked the concept that you could tell the population of an organism, like phytoplankton, by looking at the color of the water. Although, I can see many variables in trying to actually test this idea. There are many things that can change the color of something, especially in the ocean, so I don’t see how they could do this. I think that this article did a fine job of relaying information to the general public so they could understand topics that they might not have any experience dealing with it. On the other hand, that means that this article most likely left out many concepts that the general public wouldn’t understand, but I would find interesting.


What is the main reason why an increase in temperature of a few degrees would kill phytoplankton?


Bacteria Dispersal Through Bubbles

Bursting bubbles launch bacteria from water to air (Study illuminates new mode of bacteria dispersal.)

Source: MIT News
November 15th, 2018



Water contaminated with bacteria can extend the longevity of a bubble’s time exposed to the above air surface and cause it to have more of a reactive pop when it bursts. Specifically, the secretions from bacteria were shown to extend lifetimes of contaminated bubbles on a water’s surface. This extended time can cause the bubble to throw up to ten times more droplets, at ten times smaller than their size otherwise, released ten times faster when it bursts. The main concern about this is that the smaller and lighter droplets can be more easily dispersed throughout the surrounding environment.

In class, we have briefly discussed bacteria as being a large part of the microbial world. We also dove into examining the black plague which was caused by a bacteria, Yersinia pestis. I think the focus of this article could actually have contributed to the spread of the black plague because there was likely lots of unsanitary conditions for water storage. The high exposure to contaminated water in the time of the black plague likely meant that the bubbles that were released from that water were able to disperse themselves very effectively. This could have increased the spread of the bacteria and the prevalence of the black plague.

I had honestly never considered the spread of microbes from bursting bubbles before I read this article. I find it interesting because this probably related to many areas of microbial spreading all over our planet. Microbes trapped in frozen areas in Alaska are likely bursting as melting continues to increase, and the contaminated areas in our state are probably consequently affected. I think it’s amazing that the small release of a minuscule bubble in water can make big differences in the dispersal of microbes throughout large areas.
The article cites a well-recognized scientific journal and includes a study done by researchers at MIT. The article seems to recognize where there is a lack of knowledge on the subject and even the mistake that led to the creation of the original study. I think it’s valuable that the article includes the thought process that led to the study because it makes the article more easy to follow and understand. The article is written in a great way to communicate with the public; there are helpful graphics and analogies with common day occurrences in many people’s lives.

My main question is: What can bacteria use as a food source while trapped in these bubbles? It seems like a very bare environment considering that the microbes can be trapped in these spaces for many years even.