Your Wild Life Landing 2017-10-26T12:38:46+00:00

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 [...]

April 6th, 2018|

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!

February 15th, 2018|

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 [...]

November 28th, 2017|

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 [...]

October 30th, 2017|

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 [...]

October 26th, 2017|Tags: |

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, [...]

October 24th, 2017|

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 [...]

October 17th, 2017|

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 [...]

September 29th, 2017|

From the Bench: Nick Kamkari on the Sourdough Project

Sourdough is a bread made from dough that has been fermented with bacteria and yeast. One of the oldest sourdough breads dates back to over 5700 years ago and was excavated in Switzerland, but sourdough likely originated from agriculture in the Fertile Crescent thousands of years earlier.[1] Rich in both history and and microbes, I guess you could say making sourdough is a particularly cultured endeavor. The initial steps of making sourdough require “starters,” which are water-flour fermentations made up of yeast and lactic acid bacteria.[2], [3] A fermentation is merely a chemical breakdown of a substance by microorganisms like yeasts and bacteria.[4] In the case of sourdough, yeasts break [...]

September 27th, 2017|

The Search for Lost Microbes

I spent several years writing a book about the value of biological diversity to agriculture, Never Out of Season. In doing so, I gained a deep appreciation for the role farmers and consumers can play in helping to save the biological diversity of crops and the species they depend on. I also, however, realized that the biological diversity of our food does not end at the farm field. We also have biological diversity living in our kitchen, in our fermented foods. Or at least we used to. Over the last hundred years the diversity of microbes used to make foods was homogenized. We mostly now use the same yeasts to [...]

September 25th, 2017|