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Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Fantastic Bacteria and Where to Find Them!

There are awesome animals in the world. There’s the big famous ones like elephants and eagles, and there’s the really weird ones nobody really hears about like the Mexican Mole Lizard or the Emerald Cockroach Wasp (and if you don’t know about them, look them up, they’re awesome!). But they are pretty hard to find; not just being elusive in their habitats, but in having limited habitats. Even animals like kangaroos that are quite prolific in their own habitat only cover a small percentage of the planet! There are loads of them, and they’re big enough to spot from a distance, but I won’t be seeing any in the wild unless I take a long journey. Bacteria, on the other hand, are everywhere! And you get some really awesome ones of them too, especially ones nobody ever hears about. They aren’t as big as kangaroos [citation needed] but if you know how to find them you can see some fantastic ones!

This summer I’ve been isolating environmental microbes, and have started getting the sequencing data back so I can find out what I’ve got! The first set of bacteria came from within plant tissue samples taken from a remote coastal path in Wales, but the results were nowhere near as limited as the area screened; even though some of the PCR failed, and some sequences came back as nonsense, the strains identified are capable of some pretty cool stuff! I won’t go into specifics because you might steal my project, take my identity and confine me to a dungeon somewhere, but here are some notable ones:

2 strains that managed to infiltrate NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory clean rooms (and possibly stowed away on some space missions!)

A strain that eats methanol and ethanol, which I normally use to sterilise my lab!

One that eats feathers!

Several that boost plant growth (great news for me as that’s what I’m after!)

One that’s used in laundry detergent!

One that lives in silage! Tasty! (for cows)

One that makes gold nanocubes! I don’t know what they’re for exactly, let me look it up…

[Googley Googley]

They’re for drug delivery and biohydrogen production! Awesome.

That’s not even all the ones I identified, and I only ID’d about a quarter of them (first time doing the PCR, don’t judge!). I just found it so amazing that these fancy, incredibly interesting, incredibly useful bacteria were just chilling out inside a plant up a cliff by the sea. I’m going to do my best to ID the rest of them, and all the ones I’m currently still isolating, but even this small start has really enthused me about the project!

Who needs fancy international safaris, when you can find some fantastically cool organisms right there on your doorstep?

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