Planet of the Microbes

Cheryl Kuske
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Café Scientifique New Mexico, Los Alamos

Description

This Café introduced students to the planet of the microbes. Speaker, Dr. Cheryl Kuske, explained the diversity of microbes and microbial functions, and left room for the students to wonder about what might be discovered in the future. After showing that microbes are present everywhere (and in great numbers), Kuske spoke about functions of microbes in animals. She explained that human health is tightly related to the microbial communities that live in and on the body. She then focused on her research at the laboratory, specifically about her interest in soil microbes and how they affect plant health and global cycles. She highlighted the techniques used to discover new microbes and microbial communities and how knowledge about these communities continues to grow exponentially. A take-home point was that microbes are plentiful, are found everywhere, and affect everything from our environment to our health. Kuske spent a few minutes at the conclusion of her talk to touch on what is yet to be discovered about microbes and how the next generation could become involved in this field of science.

Watch an interview with Cheryl Kuske here!

Hands on Activity

This Café had two hands on activities: DNA extraction and a board game that taught about the role of microbes in human health. Going into the Café, we thought that the DNA extraction from strawberries would be too elementary, but many of the students chose this activity even if they had already performed DNA extraction in school. The board game was developed by Jonathan Eisen’s lab at UC Davis. Gut Check: The Microbiome Game is freely available here: https://phylogenomics.wordpress.com/gut-check-the-microbiome-game/. The game teaches about such things as beneficial and opportunistic microbes and pathogens, about how antibiotics affect microbial communities, and how different factors (e.g. infections, foods, probiotics, vitamins) affect our health. The Planet of the Microbes café was a success.

Hands on Activity

This Café had two hands on activities: DNA extraction and a board game that taught about the role of microbes in human health. Going into the Café, we thought that the DNA extraction from strawberries would be too elementary, but many of the students chose this activity even if they had already performed DNA extraction in school. The board game was developed by Jonathan Eisen’s lab at UC Davis. Gut Check: The Microbiome Game is freely available here: https://phylogenomics.wordpress.com/gut-check-the-microbiome-game/. The game teaches about such things as beneficial and opportunistic microbes and pathogens, about how antibiotics affect microbial communities, and how different factors (e.g. infections, foods, probiotics, vitamins) affect our health.