The Most Common Bacteria in New York City Soils are Unnamed, Can’t be Grown, and Aren’t Being Studied and Probably Won’t be in the Conceivable Future

It is worth remembering, when deadly pathogens are in the news that most microscopic species are either of no consequence to human health and well-being or are beneficial. Also, they are unstudied. Take the case of Manhattan. Manhattan is a borough of a somewhat large city reported to be full of culture, intellectualism, and black clothes. Probably, these things are true. In my lab, we mostly go there to study insects and, more recently, bacteria. In considering the bacteria of Manhattan, we have sampled medians from Broadway to Riverside, dozens of medians, those patches of green between lanes of traffic, […]

By | November 6th, 2014|Invisible Life, Urban Ecology|1 Comment

The Tip of the Gutberg: The World’s First Map of the Patina of Feces

If one tells the story of the history of the Earth from the perspective of microbes, one of the great leaps forward was the evolution of animals with guts. From the microbial perspective, animals are wondrous contrivances that evolved for carrying their habitat, the gut, from one patch of food to another and keeping it safe.

Guts are predictably full of food and, even when they are not, all one has to do is wait. They are also constant in their pH and other conditions. They are the perfect world inside a world. Many of the most successful microbes on Earth […]

By | July 10th, 2014|Homes, Invisible Life, Wild Life of Our Home|10 Comments

The Common Yet Relatively Unknown Bacteria in Your Belly Button

Two weeks ago, we (finally) returned data to participants in the Belly Button Biodiversity project and unveiled some slick, new data visualizations to help participants and any one who’s curious explore the microbial jungle inside our navels.

If you browse the interactive pie charts, you’ll notice that a handful of bacteria are super-common. Some of these bacteria – like Corynebacterium and Staphylococcus — we know a lot about.

Other common belly button bacteria, however, remain understudied and, quite frankly, unknown. In this new chapter in the Invisible Life project, Rob Dunn sketches out the […]

By | June 3rd, 2014|Belly Button Biodiversity, Invisible Life|0 Comments

Revealing the twenty most important species living in your body

What lives in you? It is a simple enough question. Yet, for most of history, it has been unanswerable. Finally, in just the last few years, we have begun to get a picture of the creatures on which you depend for existence, the creatures that constitute, literally, the majority of your cells, the creatures being dragged around as you cook breakfast, drive your car, shower or do anything else. It is a fuzzy picture, seen through the lenses of genes rather than through a microscope, and yet it is the best we have ever had.

What exactly do we see? One […]

By | December 10th, 2013|Invisible Life|12 Comments