Thinking Small: The Role of Microbial Communities in Our Everyday Lives

June 24, 2019

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Professor Jennifer Martiny’s research aims to determine the mechanisms that govern microbial diversity across environmental and human systems. Microbes such as bacteria and fungi are important for many seen and unseen processes, and Professor Martiny recently discussed their importance on the UC Merced student-run podcast RadioBio.

During her conversation with the hosts, Professor Martiny discussed how important and widespread microbes are in our environment. Microbes are found in the soil, air and water, and are essential to all life on earth. And yet, despite their prevalence, not much is known about microbial community diversity, or why certain microbial communities thrive in specific environmental conditions.

In addition to providing a few general facts about microbes, Professor Martiny and the hosts discussed some of her recent work using microbial cages. Microbial cages can allow researchers to isolate select communities of microbes and place them in different environments to test how the microbes will respond to different environmental conditions. It is her hope that information obtained from the studies will help determine how microbes adapt to changing environmental conditions. The study should also help scientists develop better computer models for determining the global impact of climate change.