What’s this all about?

13 Nov

Micro•bi•al \mī-‘krō-bē-әl\ adj1: of, involving, caused by, or regarding microorganisms;  2: by means of or in relation to microorganisms.

Mo•dus \’mō-dәs\ n1: method, procedure, or process for achieving an end; 2: orderly arrangement. Syn: mode, manner, way, fashion, system.  (The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 1997)

The Microbial Motivation

November, 2009: Over 3,300 scientists and professionals in the fields of soil, crop, and agronomy gathered in Pittsburg, PA, for the largest annual exchange of intellectual capital in these disciplines each year in the U.S.  Several major publishing companies, a multitude of analytical supplies companies and land-grant universities from around the globe were in attendance of the 2009 ASA-CSSA-SSSA meeting.

Free mints, pens, pencils, fridge magnets, and flash-drives flowed freely from the exhibition booths while the latest research in soil builders and crop genetics was exchanged in 15 minute sound-bytes.  Climate change was a hot topic, “sexy science” so to speak.  Research these days is fully engaged in attempts to not only understand the current changes but to accurately predict the complex web of impacts on everything from invasive species spread to glacial retreat and nitrogen deposition.

This was the 6th year I’ve participated in the  this conference and while there have been some major changes in the technologies shared, knowledge exchanged, and the age and gender distribution of the attendees, the general look and feel was the same.  We’ve been taking “global warming” for granted.  The scientific community, to which I consider myself an active member, has long forgone the question “Is this really happening?” and replaced it with, “How do we deal with it?”

At one point, I struggled to squeeze into a room where the next speaker was preparing to discuss the newest techniques to predict long-term impacts and unexpected consequences of a shift in the global weather patterns on soil microbes.  These speaker-rooms were set up to comfortably hold about one hundred people, but this particular talk was standing-room-only.  I had to stand on my tip-toes to see over the guy in front of me, all the while, wondering to myself… All of us “environmental scientists” are enthralled by this stuff, but what about everybody else?  What about all those folks out there, everyday people who watch Fox News and don’t really know about all this?  Would they care?  If somebody could put it to them in simple terms, would they be interested?  Maybe even find some of it useful, helpful, or at the very least, entertaining?

I decided at that point to begin this blog.  My perspective is, in short, that microbes rule the world and more people should be aware of that.   What makes this little-known-fact particularly important right now is that we humans are facing wide variety of environmental problems, from widespread contamination of soils and waterways, to global climate change, and even world hunger.  But, we have only begun to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of microbial diversity and there are endless possible solutions still to be found in the microbial world.  So, “Microbial Modus” was born…

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2 Responses to “What’s this all about?”

  1. Sue Sullivan November 15, 2009 at 8:20 pm #

    I guess one of my greatest worries and I don’t know if if falls under your study or not is about the purity of our water supply. I know that are certain microbes can go through the water filters that we have and I worry about how they can adversely affect our health. We hear so many things about our water not being as pure or as sanitary as the water board wants us to believe, and honestly that does concern me. Can the microbes that pass through our extra water filters here at the house stay alive in our bodies and cause us health problems later on? Are some of our digestive problems related to microbes in our water supply or just simply foods that are grown in soil that is contaminated? Anyway, just thought I would ask an expert. 🙂

  2. Sue Sullivan November 16, 2009 at 11:58 am #

    We are wanting to start a vegetable garden this coming spring and I think that there are good microbes that can encourage growth and/or enrich the vegetables that we want to grow. How do I find out if there is a fertilizer available that I can use that actually uses natural microbes to encourage the growth of my garden that is not harmful but beneficial?

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