Thursday, June 17, 2010

Adventures in microbial ecology

I arrived at my summer course on Saturday. Not sure how many people are interested in microbial diversity, but this is my life for the next 6 weeks. It's odd being back in dorms and eating in a cafeteria again (metabolism is definitely not as intense as when I was 18). Sunday was pretty chill, but since then, things have been pretty swamped. Lectures in the morning, lab in the afternoon and evening, done for the night around 11PM. Almost every minute is planned out with exciting microbiology things. Monday night, the entire class walked out to a nearby swamp with significant methane production, waded in chest deep, and stomped around in the sediments releasing the biogas. The gas was collected in large stoppered upside-down funnels, which we used to make large (as in 5 feet high) flaring infernos. Unfortunately, the experience came with some very unpleasant odors. Tuesday, we went out to some nearby salt marshes and sampled sediment and water. There were a lot of really interesting microbial consortia, including lots of purple-pigmented bacteria.

The lab experience for tonight was making beer from kits. This also involved imbibing for most of the class. My classmates come from diverse academic and societal backgrounds, and are very entertaining to talk to. It's amazing. We do microbiology all day and all night, and when we have free time to talk, we mostly still talk about microbiology. Nerds all.

There is a beach nearby which has bioluminescent dinoflagillates that you can swim with, so that may be the next big adventure.

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