Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Microbiome Fear-Mongering Machine

Wow, this movie trailer and Indiegogo campaign for MicroBirth seems to raise the level of fear mongering around the microbiome in a shocking way. From economic calamity to immediate worldwide health concerns, the movie interweaves the nascent science of the microbiome with all that could be bad in the developed world today. While I'm a fan of studying the microbiome and its implications, including the universality of maternal microbial transmission (related blog post), I am surprised by the significant attempt to introduce fright into the public's minds. What do you all think? Is it worthwhile or just a mashup of buzz themes today that don't rise to the level of alarm in the documentary? In the last decade, there have been many microbiome association studies and few causation studies. The field could mature a bit before substantiating the horror.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Microbiology of Animal Speciation: My talk at the University of Utah

The microbiome sciences are at an inflection point in which largely descriptive studies of microbial associations with phenotypes are transcending to functional studies in which microbes are shown to play a causal role in those phenotypes. Kevin Kohl and Denise Dearing at the University of Utah's Department of Biology are doing innovative work on the function of gut microbes in mammals, namely how gut bacteria allow woodrats to eat poisonous plants. I'm fortunate to say that Kevin is also considering spending time in our lab with his NSF postdoc fellowship. The visit made a big impression on me. The Department is top notch in evolutionary biology/ecology and the city has great views and very happy people! My meetings with  Mike Shapiro (evolutionary development), Colin Dale (symbiosis), and Dale Clayton (coevolution), and Nitin Phadnis (speciation geneticist) were also memorable.

Kevin and Denise invited me out to Salt Lake for a Super Seminar Bash (delicious food and beverages to accompany the seminar) on September 4, 2014. The biology group showed up in droves, and we had a sensational time discussing the Origin of Species, Wolbachia, and the Hologenome concept of evolution. Here's the talk:

Related Blog Posts:
1. The Ten Principle of the Hologenome (July 20, 2014)
2. The Hologenome Facebook Page - Discover Your Symbiotic Complexity (January 22, 2014)
3. Do Hosts Handpick Their Microbiome? (December 4, 2013)
4. The Gravity of Symbiosis (November 3, 2013)