Microbial partners of crop plant agro-biodiversity
By Lori R. Shapiro, PhD, Dept of Applied Ecology, North Carolina State University and Erik Delaquis, CIAT, Roots, Tubers, and Bananas program of the CGIAR Human agriculture has existed for only 10,000 years - barely qualifying as a rounding error in the 4 billion year history of the Earth. Yet, in this short time, farmers across the world have domesticated an astonishing diversity of plants for agriculture. All plants - including all domesticated crop plants - are host to ‘microbiomes’ – complex communities of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microscopic eukaryotes that inhabit the surfaces and interior of plant roots, leaves, stems, flowers and fruits. Plant microbiomes function as a [...]
Never Home Alone:
A Gala of Stories, Foods,and Insights from the Study of the Life in Homes November 15th, 2018 (Evening) Beginning ten years ago scientists at North Carolina State University dared to go where few had gone before. They began to explore the biodiversity of belly buttons, bedrooms, backyards, showerheads and food. But they didn’t do it alone. This work required the collaboration of scientists at many other universities as well as that of thousands of non-scientists around the world who helped to take samples, to ask questions and even to think about new kinds of analyses. Now, Rob Dunn and the large team that carried out this work, are ready to [...]
Fermented Foods: Harnessing the Power of Microorganisms
Humans have fermented foods, be they vegetables, grains or beverages, for thousands of years. Fermentation has the power to preserve food while also altering its flavor and, in many cases, increasing its nutritional qualities. This power for change comes from microbes! Bacteria and sometimes fungi, such as yeast, tag along with the ingredients used in fermentation, whether they be seal meat, cabbage leaves or radish tubers. In brined (salty) fermentations, we now know that certain types of bacteria called Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) or Acetic acid bacteria (AAB) break down the more complex sugars in plants to make lactic acid or acetic acid, thus making the food more acidic (have [...]
Take the new cat personality test
The Cat Tracker Project is launching a new cat personality test. Take 10 minutes and complete the survey to unveil your cat's personality characteristics. Your cat will be scored on five personality factors (the Feline Five). Learn more about the test and Cat Tracker at discoverycircle.org.au/cat-personality/. Take the Cat Personality survey!
Students Discover Update
Overview: Over the last five years we have worked to develop citizen science projects that reach out to the public but also that, more specifically, reach into classrooms and engage students. The core of this work has been funded by a National Science Foundation MSP grant to North Carolina State University, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and the school systems of Wake County, Alamance County and Pender County, North Carolina. In the ideal scenario, students do real science, their learning outcomes improve, new discoveries are made, and all while fitting within ever changing state and federal standards and their associated calendars. In practice, we sometimes achieve all of [...]
Is that a milpa in a rice terrace?
In September, Dr. Lori Shapiro of The Great Pumpkin Project traveled to Vietnam in collaboration with Erik Delaquis of CIAT in Hanoi to characterize microbial communities of New World crop plants - focusing on cassava and pumpkin - that have been introduced to Asia. Today's guest post is a reflection on global crop movement written by Lori Shapiro and Erik Delaquis. Driving North from Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, we were soon climbing towards the ruggedly scenic Ha Giang plateau (pronounced Ha zang), near the Chinese border. Weathered limestone peaks filled with unexplored caves quickly approached, and the already crisp mountain air rushed through Close up of terraced agriculture [...]
Calling All Drones
On Monday, October 9th, Greg Crutsinger woke to an ordinary sort of day. He was looking forward to the week. He was launching a new company called Drone Scholars. His wife had been promoted to an executive director in the non-profit she worked for. His daughter was on her way to being potty trained. Things were good until he heard about the fires that had happened in the night before just north of the San Francisco Bay area in California, not far from where he lived. Fires are normal in California, part of the nature of the state. The plants of California are adapted to fire. The animals too. But [...]
The Leopard in your Showerhead
Your showerhead is personal. It is the conduit through which water falls on you to keep you clean. It is also full of life. Showerheads can, in other words, clean you and dirty you at the same time. We are interested in the life in showerheads, particularly the life that accumulates in biofilms (tiny microbial cities) inside the showerheads. There are many reasons to be interested in these biofilms. For ecologists, these biofilms are relatively simple (they tend to contain few species) and discreet enough to be understood. They are an opportunity to test the newest theories. For medical researchers, these biofilms can contain pathogens. For those who study cooperation, [...]
The Sourdough Project Yeast Results are Here!
The Sourdough Project has some exciting updates to share today! Here is your chance to see some of the data for your individual sourdough starter, data on some of the more common species present in your starter. On the yeast results map (found here) you will find individual points on the maps near to where you live. The points are labeled with your sample number (for which you can search). The points don’t exactly match the location of your home so as to preserve the anonymity of your starter. But wait, don’t look yet. Before you look, there are some caveats. The first caveat is that while we succeeded in [...]
Getting the measure of sourdough biodiversity
We have good news. From the 568 sourdough samples our participants sent us we have completed the first of many stages of identification of the life therein. Most sourdough starters contain both bacteria and fungi. The fungi produce carbon dioxide, the bacteria the acid (usually, we actually think that some of the fungi in sourdoughs are producing acid too). We haven’t identified the fungi yet. Soon though. As for the bacteria, when we first looked at the results, we were in for several surprises. Though it took some steps to get there. In our analyses the first data we see are in the form of a file that contains the [...]