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July 2010

Colorful Creatures

Click on it to see full imageThis image was taken by a kite-lofted camera above the salt evaporation ponds in Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The water itself is unusually clear and you can see through it to the pond bottom, although the surface is carrying a large bloom of algae. The salt ponds are remarkable for the micro-organisms that flourish at various salinities with true colors ranging from vibrant green to vermillion.

The camera is contained in a radio-controlled cradle suspended from a kite line approximately 50 meters below the kite. The suspension techniques, developed 100 years ago, provide an aerial photography platform that is stable and inexpensive. Additional information is available at:

Antarctic Microbes

Researchers used a scanning electron microscope to capture this image of microplankton, in this case a chain of diatoms from Antarctica. This specimen was pulled from the depths of the Antarctic Sea. More of Dee Breger's microscope images of nature can be found at her website:

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The Art of Protozoa

Click on it to see full imageIn this image entitled "Protozoa in   Real Time," created in a college biology class, one can see the dynamic, energetic life that abounds in a drop of pond water.

The image was submitted as part of the 2007 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge, an effort jointly administered by the National Science Foundation and the journal Science.

Winners from the SciViz challenges can be seen at:

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Bioparticles vs. Cancer

Tarek Fahmy of Yale and his graduate student Erin Steenblock have developed a biodegradable polymer that can help trigger a targeted immune response to specific threats in the body, a technology that could potentially aid the fights against cancer, autoimmune diseases and viral infections. Compared with conventional immunotherapy approaches, the researchers believe these newly developed bioparticles will likely be more cost effective, faster, and produce fewer adverse immune system reactions.

Lots of Life on the Sea Floor

Scientists have found that rocks beneath the seafloor are teeming with microbial life – bacteria on ocean-bottom rocks are more abundant and diverse than previously thought, apparently "feeding” on the planet's oceanic crust.

The findings offer scientists new perspectives about the co-evolution of Earth and life. While seafloor microbes have been detected before, the new study by researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Woods Hole, Mass., the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, and other institutions is the first to quantify the microbes. Using genetic analyses, Cara Santelli of WHOI, Katrina Edwards of USC, and their colleagues found three to four times more bacteria living on exposed rock than in the waters above.


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Glowing Bacteria Light Up Ocean

This Research in Action article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

This photo shows a petri dish swabbed with a culture of bioluminescent marine bacteria.  The bacteria give off light using a process known as quorum sensing that is controlled by four small RNA molecules within each of them. 

When only one bacterium is present it has the ability to produce light, but doesn’t because it’s too small.  When it’s alone, it could produce only a feeble glow, so it reserves its resources until others of its kind are around. 

LiveScience's Research in Action

Microbe vs. Mineral: A Life and Death Struggle in the Desert

This Research in Action article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

The bursts of rainbow colors in this photograph are mesmerizing, yet microbes are fighting for their lives in the background. Michael P. Zach of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, snapped this image of a salt sample he collected in a hot, arid valley near Death Valley National Park in California. Zach crushed the salt, placed it under a microscope slide and added a drop of water. Suddenly a slew of microbes came to life as the salt crystals dissolved, and when the water started evaporating, he took a picture. The colors come from light passing through the growing crystals, which act like prisms.

Tiny Marine Microbes Exert Influence On Global Climate

New research indicates that the interactions of microscopic organisms around a particular organic material may alter the chemical properties of the ocean

Justin Seymour, a research fellow at the University of Technology Sydney, is the lead author of a paper published in the July 16 issue of Science that describes how a relative of the smelly chemical that sea birds and seals use to locate prey, dimethylsulfide (DMS), may serve a similar purpose at the microbial scale, helping marine microorganisms find food and cycle chemicals that are important to climate.

"We found that ecological interactions and behavioral responses taking place within volumes of a fraction of a drop of seawater can ultimately influence important ocean chemical cycling processes," said Seymour.

Read this news report in Science and Technology News dated 15 July 2010 and watch the related videos available at:

Nestle Drops Its Unproven Probiotic Claims

Nestle HealthCare Nutrition Inc., has reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and dropped its claims in false advertising in its promotion of a children's drink.

Nestle HealthCare Nutrition Inc. claimed its Boost Kid Essentials drink with probiotics boosted childrens' immune systems, prevented certain illnesses, sped up recovery and reduced their school absences. "Nestle's claims that its probiotic product would prevent kids from getting sick or missing school just didn't stand up to scrutiny," David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said.

US Congressional Hearing On Drug Resistance

“Would you like some antibiotic-resistant bacteria with your grilled chicken at your backyard barbeque? Of course not. But that likelihood continues to grow unless the government makes industry change the way most American farm animals are raised”, wrote a magazine, reflecting the mood at the US Congressional hearing.

"As we will hear today, animals raised for food production are routinely provided antibiotics to prevent infections. In stark contrast to animals, we would be shocked if a pediatrician ever ordered antibiotics for an entire nursery school class to keep the children from being infected with strep throat. But in this country, that is standard practice for a barnyard full of pigs, or cows, or chickens." U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce made these remarks during a subcommittee hearing titled "Antibiotic Resistance and the Use of Antibiotics in Animal Agriculture." Lawmakers heard testimony from six veterinary experts and representatives from the agricultural industry, public health and human medicine on 14 July 2010.