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Posted by Megan on September 18th, 2017  ⟩  0 comments

Glowing petri dish - rendering



You don’t usually hear the word “beautiful” when discussing bacteria, but a trend among microbiologists has turned microbes into aesthetic wonders. A number of projects have repurposed bacteria for art. In one competition, the Agar Art Contest, scientists become artists by creating "paintings" with cultured bacteria and other microscopic organisms. The annual contest results in scientific "art" that is in every aspect beautiful.

Because anyone can appreciate a bit of innovation – scientific or artistic – we’ve decided to browse the theory of this inventive competition, expanding our perspective on the surge of petri dish paintings. We’ll conclude with strategies for how you can contribute to the art form.

Raise your monocles and magnifying glasses; let’s get cultured!



The Agar Art Contest

The American Society for Microbiology has held its Agar Art Contest for several years, encouraging competitors from around the world to express their artistic side through scientific modes. Members of the ASM create images on agar plates or similar artistic “media” with a palette of microbials like bacteria, fungi and yeast. The aggregation of microorganisms produces unique paintings that last as long as the colonies thrive.

Experts, students and hobbyists have participated in the competition. Some pieces are the collaborative projects of artists and research scientists blending their expertise. One example of cooperation came from microbiologist Dr. Mehmet Berkmen and artist Maria Peñil Cobo, a pair that matched complimentary skills to create 2015’s winning plate, “Neurons.” Other paintings are the work of entire lab teams that integrate distinctive organisms into pictures.

Agar paintings are judged on artistic presentation, originality and the artist’s scientific assessment of their culture. Guidelines are given for sizing but also safety, as some organisms can be hazardous if not treated with laboratory precaution. Any type of microbe and agar can be used. Minimal editing is suggested to prevent images from being unfairly enhanced, but the submissions become more impressive each cycle. Past examples of the art include a bacterial rendering of “Starry Night” by van Gogh. Another imitated Monet’s “Water Lilies.” Many artists generate original images as well.

This year’s winner was a stained plate of yeast rather than bacteria, but the art of Jasmine Temple and her colleagues was no less beautiful than an organic spread of bacterial colonies. Her process stippled nanodroplets of pigment-encoding baker's yeast on an agar plate. The media retained each drop’s position in a geometric landscape, producing an ocean-side sunset of pinks, blues and yellows. Although featured pieces may only survive a few days, the impact remains; the distinct tones dividing “art” and “science” coalesce in a new color.



Creating Microbial Art

Painting with bacteria isn’t entirely novel. Sir Alexander Fleming, the scientist responsible for discovering penicillin in the 1920s, began making “germ paintings” of bacteria during his career as a microbiologist. His use of pigmented strains as paint and lab loops as brushes didn’t attract much recognition at the time, but his pieces included portraits and cartoon-style images.

This passion may have led directly to the detection of his now famous antibiotic. A particular agar plate by Fleming demonstrated the bacteria-killing activity of Pencillium fungus. Another culture infused with nasal mucus showed similar activity and generated the theory of human lysozymes. Association to these discoveries make Fleming’s microbial paintings historically valuable to both fields.

In more recent years, laboratory technicians and artists alike have fashioned similar plates for the Agar Art Contest. The process remains based in microbiology. Participants must consider the organisms they’re using; species of bacteria require differing nutrients to successfully colonize a plate. Strains may also grow at asymmetrical rates or proliferate over one another if left unsupervised. Art and science must therefore be carefully coordinated to produce the most successful, aesthetically pleasing cultures.

ASM isn’t the only organization participating in the microbial art era. A collection of scientists provide material for Microbial Art, an online gallery and source of purchasable agar art. While some contributions are like those in the ASM contest, others expand the approach to microbial creations. Some artists feature organic patterns of bacteria imaged in adaptive response configurations. Another gallery uses colored agar to draw relief images of other macroscopic organisms like insects and birds. Bioluminescent bacteria bring further light to the mode. Beyond bacteria, eukaryotic algae and slime molds are employed to create “bioglyphs,” images composed of natural growth patterns. Every artist expresses individual talent and style; the final product is a microbe-based art museum.

Individuals also cultivate their own bacterial art displays. Zachary Copfer is a “bacteriograph” artist, a past microbiologist who discovered his passion for this specialized technique during his photography MFA program. The first step of the photo-printing process manipulates a culture of fluorescent protein E. coli or Serratia marcescens covering the plate. Radiation sterilizes some bacteria to imprint a photo negative on the gel. The true image is revealed after surviving colonies expand, and an acrylic-resin solution immobilizes them. Copfer uses this method to bacteriograph visuals of space as well as scientists like Albert Einstein. Similar to the ASM and Microbial Art projects, Copfer’s intent for bacteriographing is to reverse the division between art and science, annulling the boundaries posed on these fields.



Make Agar Your Canvas

Any curious researcher must now be wondering how they can participate in the microbial art trend. We have a few suggestions for how you can successfully (and safely) turn your agar gels into a canvas suited to bacterial painting.

How to raise a proper culture:

Your basic necessities are a petri dish for holding medium, agar, and inoculation loops. For your culture, you can purchase weak strains of bacteria like E. coli, fungi or yeast. Alternatively, swabs can be taken from objects or body parts to cultivate environmental species, though predicting what these colonies will look like is difficult. Relevant agar medium should be bought to adequately support whatever strains you’re raising.

If you have the resources to do so, bacterial color and luminescence is easily influenced. Low-demand genetic engineering can produce fluorescence and vibrant pigmentation. Heat shock transformation methods stress your bacteria with high temperatures, inducing their absorption of DNA additive in their environment. Kits provide the substances necessary for this technique, but equipment like centrifuges and incubators are also necessary. These are available to the average lab tech, but an artist home-growing their paintings must buy new or used machines.

Prepared microbes are collected and spread onto the agar layer surface. For artistic purposes, manipulate the growth pattern by applying them in the shape of an image. After application, allow a few days of growth. You can check progress at daily increments to decide when the image has been most accurately rendered. When you’re satisfied with the picture, seal the agar’s contents with epoxy. An oxygen seal prevents aerobic growth among bacteria and thus preserves your image.

As previously mentioned, creating agar art is possible outside of the laboratory setting. A cheap set of petri dishes, agar and swabs can produce a microbe painting. One consideration is an incubator. Because bacteria grow more readily in the heat, having a machine or environment that warms the agar plate will produce the best results. Incubators will also prevent unwanted strains from contaminating your art piece. If you don’t have an incubator, leaving the plate covered in a heated room should induce the same effect.

Safety precautions are recommended even when you’re working with household bacteria swabs for your cultures. Don’t unnecessarily expose yourself to whatever strains take up residence in your plate – you never know when a dangerous colony has occupied your colorful art experiment. Bacteria purchased from a manufacturer will come with safety instructions; read these to prevent any unsafe painting practices.

Creating a bacterial palette:

Keep in mind the different environmental and behavioral characteristics of each microbe you incorporate. Keep in mind that agar recipes differ depending on microbe, so some strains are not compatible with others. There are also varying rates of pigmentation between species. Some become vibrant upon generation while others require chemical processes to color. More advanced techniques engineer the protein expression of microbes to induce unnatural coloration or fluorescence.

Many types of bacteria, fungi and yeasts have entered the palette of agar art. Here are a few naturally colored microorganisms that can accentuate the aesthetic appeal of your project:

  • Bacteria:
    • Brown: Bacillus subtilis, Proteus mirabilis
    • Pink-red: Micrococcus roseus, Serratia marcescens
    • Orange: Streptococcus agalactiae
    • Yellow: Micrococcus luteus, Staphylococcus aureus
    • Blue-green: Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Pseudomonas fluorescens
    • Purple: Chromobacterium violaceum
    • Transparent: E. coli
    • Bioluminscent: Vibrio fischeri
  • Yeast and fungi:
    • Brown-black: Aspergillus fumigatus, Cladosporium herbarum, Cryptococcus neoformans
    • Red-orange: Penicillum marneffei, Rhodotorula
    • Yellow: Aspergillus ochraeus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae
    • Green: Aspergillus flavus
    • White: Candida albicans
    • Epicoccum nigrum comes in a variety of colors including brown, red, orange, yellow and black


Art can be integrated into science to craft remarkable projects and raise awareness of the research being conducted. Adding a bit of excitement to your agar promotes public interest in how microbes are being studied. The art grows not only bacteria but conversation – the general fear of bacteria is transformed into intrigue, sometimes even adoration. This is positive coverage for microbes as well as their human counterparts, researchers.

A few days of microbial growth is all it takes for a scientist to become an agar artist. Next time you have an extra plate, some viable bacteria and a few hours of time, you might consider making your own painting. If you’re inspired to join the artistic movement, share your creations with us!

For more on the relationship between art and science: Art and Science: An Eternal Relationship



References

Acharya, T. (2016, April 13). Pathogenic microbes with characteristics pigments production. Retrieved August 9, 2017, from http://microbeonline.com.

Blondin, J. (2016, March 26). Is it possible to create microbial art at home? If so, how? Retrieved August 9, 2017, from https://www.quora.com.

Bowerman, M. (2015, October 21). Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' recreated with bacteria in petri dish. Retrieved August 9, 2017, from https://www.usatoday.com.

Dunn, R. (2010, July 10). Painting With Penicillin: Alexander Fleming’s Germ Art. Retrieved August 9, 2017, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature.

Howard, J. (2016, April 4). This Artist Paints With Bacteria, And It’s Strangely Beautiful. Retrieved August 9, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com.

Microbial Art. (n.d.). Featured Galleries. Retrieved August 9, 2017, from https://www.usatoday.com.

Palmero, E. (2015, October 22). Microbe Masterpieces: Scientists Create Cool Art from Bacteria. Retrieved August 9, 2017, from https://www.livescience.com.

Zhang, M. (2012, September 12). Bacteriograph: Photographs Printed with Bacterial Growth. Retrieved August 9, 2017, from https://petapixel.com.



                 Megan Hardie
           GoldBio Staff Writer

Megan Hardie is an undergraduate student at The Ohio State
University’s Honors Arts and Sciences program. Her eclectic
interests have led to a rather unwieldly degree title: BS in
Anthropological Sciences and BA English Creative Writing,
Forensics Minor. She aspires to a PhD in Forensic Anthropology
and MA in English. In her career, she endeavors to apply the
qualities of literature to the scientific mode and vice versa,
integrating analysis with artistic expression.

Category Code: 79101, 79102, 88221, 88231

Posted by Megan on September 5th, 2017  ⟩  0 comments

Buffers are a class of solution-stabilizing molecules which existed long before contemporary lab technology. Natural buffer substances like bicarbonate and carbonic acid are manufactured by organisms and molecular interactions, functioning to maintain pH equilibrium.

After natural buffer systems were discovered, their balancing effects became indispensable in scientific exploration. Synthetic buffers were developed over decades to produce reliable reactions in experimental models, enhancing biochemical reactions and medicinal products.

New buffers are introduced every year, built from the fundamentals developed over a century ago. This article explores buffers beginning with the foundation which made them inseparable from biochemistry. We’ll then follow the construction and replacement of buffering systems among individual studies as procedures are continually refined.



First developments: Quantifications and medicine

Quantifying chemical behavior is essential to experimentation, so calculations paved the buffer system’s entry into biochemistry. In 1908, Lawrence Joseph Henderson formulated an equation which described carbonic acid as a natural buffer. Karl Albert Hasselbalch later reformulated Henderson’s work logarithmically to create the Henderson–Hasselbalch equation, a formula that measures pH derivation in terms of acidity. It became a valuable tool for estimating the equilibrium pH in acid-base reactions and what pH a buffer would constitute.

Buffers applied to other mediums had their own mathematics developed soon after. Published by M. Koppel and K. Spiro in 1914, “On the action of moderators (buffers)” studied the effects of these substances “in the shift of the acid-base equilibrium of biological fluids.” The paper introduced our basic concept of buffer value (P, relating to strong acids) and gave revolutionary calculations to buffering activity among different substance types: weak and dibasic acids, bases, ampholytes and buffer mixtures.

Another contribution was made eight years later when Van Slyke published a simplified calculation for buffer values in a solution. His quantification using β, the amount of strong base, was similar to Koppel and Spiro’s and had identical assumptions. Van Slyke’s focus tended towards the physiological aspects of buffer solutions whereas the previous authors intended their calculations for physicochemical mathematics. This algorithm for acid-base variation has since been useful for blood-based chemistry and determining the relationship between buffer concentration and capacity.

Early buffers focused on medicinal purposes like stabilizing biofluid pH. The 1928 invention of Tums maintained pH ranges in the digestive system via neutralization of stomach acid. Alka-Seltzer, made available in 1931, is still used as a lab demonstration in university lectures. 



Foundational experiments: 1960-1990s

Basic reagents are used in combination to produce the most potent buffer solutions. Once buffers transitioned into biochemistry, researchers began to establish what chemical mixtures were most productive for equalizing the pH of certain reactions.

Between the 1960s and 80s, a project for determining the best buffers resulted in a list that remains crucial in modern laboratories. “Good’s buffers” were produced or collected by Norman Good and his colleagues, and selected on a number of criteria that qualified application to research in the biological field. Some of the requirements were pKa between 6 and 8, high water solubility, stability and a lack of exchange with membranes or biochemical reactions. Good also prioritized substances that could be prepared easily and safely.

One of the lab world’s most valuable buffer agents, Tris – was first recognized by Good in the early 1960s. Known in therapeutics as THAM, Tris quickly adopted scientific roles. Tris and other reagents identified by Good continue to act as the equalizing agents within buffer mixtures by adjusting pH to a specified range. 



Recent developments: 2000s

After Good’s buffers became common knowledge, researches took advantage of flexible buffer technology. The ease of inventing compounds gives each laboratory license to pioneer new buffer mechanisms; furthermore, new technology and experimentation methods expand research opportunities. Recent decades have demonstrated the creativity of researchers who seek better devices for validating experiments. Their initiative to revise past substances advances biochemical techniques. We can visualize buffer advancement through a few novel systems, invented to improve research activity.

Retrieving results is the first priority of scientific research. Two studies in 2007 used new buffers to optimize data recovery from biochemical tests involving DNA. In an article on real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis, researchers intended to improve the quantification and yield of replicated DNA using a combination of buffers with Tris. By using HEPES, MOPS or TAE alone or together in addition to Tris, the reaction’s efficiency was improved in terms of detection and measurement. Another project identified a pair of new buffers for use in plant DNA flow cytometry. Termed “general purpose buffer” (GPB) and “woody plant buffer” (WPD), these buffers produced quality results from samples. GPB was more applicable to softer tissue plants and WPD worked better with recalcitrant tissue. These original substances had higher productivity than buffers previously used for this technique, indicating a possible replacement for other solutions.

Inventing buffers relevant to multiple techniques can result in overall enhancements to biochemical analysis. All chemical substances have qualities that prevent them from being functional in all test circumstances. For buffers, limits are posed by cooling processes that reduce their efficacy. Cold temperatures can degrade buffer-maintained pH and damage frozen or refrigerated samples, but a 2008 research project designed a buffer which could combat the constraint. Buffers become either more acidic or more alkaline when cooled, so researchers combined solutions until they found the correct proportions to have a minimal pH shift of 0.2 (reduced from the 2 pH change seen in other buffers). Biochemical tests need maximally stable pH from which results can be confidently validated, so having this buffer mix at a lab’s disposal could optimize their experimentation.



(Click the image for an expanded version of the timeline)



Today’s researchers use decades of assembled knowledge to develop new, better compounds for stabilizing biochemical reactions. With such a reliable foundation for implementation, it’s obvious why buffers have proliferated throughout the field. Old buffer systems can be applied to emerging techniques, but more often new solutions are created to replace outdated ones. As Good’s team encouraged safe, inexpensive buffers, science encourages the discovery of productive buffers for conducting each test. We have high expectations for this category of substances – with the direction of visionary scientists, our methods can only improve.

Buffers purchasable from GoldBio



References

Ahmad, A., & Ghasemi, J. (2007). New buffers to improve the quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 71(8), 1970-1978. doi:10.1271/bbb.70164.

Ambler, J., & Rodgers, M. (1980). Two new non-barbiturate buffers for electrophoresis of serum proteins on cellulose acetate membranes. Clinical Chemistry, 26(8), 1221-1223. Retrieved August 1, 2017, from http://clinchem.aaccjnls.org.

Loureiro, J., Rodriguez, E., Dolezel, J., & Santos, C. (2007). Two new nuclear isolation buffers for plant DNA flow cytometry: a test with 37 species. Annals of Botany, 100(4), 875-888. doi:10.1093/aob/mcm152.

Roos, A., & Boron, W. F. (1980). The buffer value of weak acids and bases: origin of the concept, and first mathematical derivation and application to physico-chemical systems the work of M. Koppel and K. Spiro (1914). Respiration Physiology, 40(1), 1-32. doi:10.1016/0034-5687(80)90002-X.

Sun, H., Lau, K. M., & Fung, Y. S. (2010). A new capillary electrophoresis buffer for determining organic and inorganic anions in electroplating bath with surfactant additives. Journal of Chromatography A, 1217(19), 3244-3250. doi:10.1016/j.chroma.2010.01.011.

Thomas, J. M., & Hodes, M. E. (1981). A new discontinuous buffer system for the electrophoresis of cationic proteins at near-neutral pH. Analytical Biochemistry, 118(1), 194-196. doi:10.1016/0003-2697(81)90178-0.

Williamson, J. D., & Cox, P. (1968). Use of a New Buffer in the Culture of Animal Cells. Journal of General Virology, 2, 309-312. doi:10.1099/0022-1317-2-2-309.



                Megan Hardie
           GoldBio Staff Writer

Megan Hardie is an undergraduate student at The Ohio State
University’s Honors Arts and Sciences program. Her eclectic
interests have led to a rather unwieldly degree title: BS in
Anthropological Sciences and BA English Creative Writing,
Forensics Minor. She aspires to a PhD in Forensic Anthropology
and MA in English. In her career, she endeavors to apply the
qualities of literature to the scientific mode and vice versa,
integrating analysis with artistic expression.

Category Code: 79101, 79102, 79105, 88221, 88241

Posted by Rebecca on August 23rd, 2017  ⟩  0 comments

When doing research, using existing protocols and modifying them to suit your experiment can save you a lot of time if you know where to search. Here are 10 great protocol databases to check out.

When doing life science research, the best way to save time and increase your efficiency is to use and modify existing protocols. It is rare that you will ever need to come up with your own protocol from scratch and preexisting protocols can save you time. Finding protocols when you don’t know where to look can be time consuming and monotonous. To save you the effort of searching the internet high and low trying to find a procedure to follow, I have compiled 10 sources for protocols here and a brief description of each that goes over cost. Many of the protocols can be found at little to no cost so take advantage of them and you can spend more time doing the science that you love rather than hunting for reliable protocols for your experiment.

     
     

1. Supplier Protocols

When searching for protocols, one of the first places to look is on your supplier’s website. At GoldBio, we offer a variety of protocol types ranging from how to use our products, to preparing stock solutions and a guide for using our buffers. Check out our growing database of protocols and to see if your other suppliers offer protocols on their sites as well.

   
 
     

2. Protocol Online

Protocol Online is a large database of life science protocols provided by suppliers, researchers and labs around the world. It was created by POL Scientific, which publishes a variety of journals, including the Journal of Biological Methods. Protocols are divided into categories and subcategories making them easy to find. There is also a search feature to help you locate a protocol you need even faster.

     
   

 

3. Nature Protocols/Protocol Exchange

Nature has two different databases of protocols available online. Nature Protocols is a collection of vigorously peer-reviewed protocols that have been approved for publishing. These protocols are not free to access; however, there are a variety of sponsored protocols available at no cost.

Nature also has a database known as the Nature Protocol Exchange. At this site, users can upload any type of scientific protocol, but there is a focus on protocols related to life science research. This is an open source database so there are no fees for accessing protocols that have been uploaded by other users. There is no peer-review process that protocols go through before being published on the protocol exchange.

   

 
     

4. Springer Protocols

Springer offers a variety of protocols divided into categories. These protocols require a subscription to access and can therefore become quite expensive. Protocols have been reviewed by the site’s editor of that particular subject area. Additionally, there are about 150 free protocols available in their free protocol library. Springer’s protocols are written in a step-by-step manner similar to a recipe from your favorite cookbook.

   

 
     

5. Journal of Visualized Experiments

JoVE is a peer-reviewed journal that publishes visual experiments such as videos or images. The idea behind JoVE is that using visualized science, the reproducibility of protocols will be increased. Moreover, it will decrease the amount of time scientists spend learning new techniques because they will be able to follow along with the protocol visually. Many of the video protocols published on JoVE require a subscriptions, but there are also some available as open-access experiments.

JoVE publishes a wide variety protocol videos. Some of the methodologies featured in their journal are newly discovered or updated, while others are standard, common techniques. JoVE publishes works related to both the life and physical sciences and they are organized by subjects such as biology, immunology, engineering, etc.

   
 
     

6. Hivebench

Hivebench is an electronic lab notebook with a feature available for users to upload protocols to an open-access protocol database. Anyone can post protocols for public viewing and the protocols are not peer reviewed before becoming accessible to users. Protocols can be copied and pasted, and then edited directly in the Hivebench notebook. If you don’t use Hivebench for your lab notebook, don’t worry—the protocols are freely accessible even without opening a Hivebench account.

   

 
     

7. OpenWetWare

OpenWetWare is a wiki page set up in 2005 by graduate students at MIT. It was created to share discoveries and information in biology among members of the scientific community. The page features various sections including protocols, labs, and courses. You can add your lab to OpenWetWare by submitting a request to join. More importantly, protocols are free to access without creating an account. They’re organized by categories, but the site also has an option to search through their protocols so it is easy to find what you’re looking for.

   
 
     

8. Bio-Protocol

Bio-protocol is a site created by a group of biologists from Stanford. They saw an area where life science research was lacking—the reproducibility of experiments. The protocols are published and accessed at no cost, but must be related to the life sciences. They are detailed and peer-reviewed to ensure accuracy and reproducibility. Furthermore, there is a moderated question and answer forum associated with each protocol so if there are any areas of confusion, they can be addressed in a collaborative manner. You can access protocols by field of research or organism.

   
 
     

9. Protocols.io

Protocols.io is an open-source database of protocols for the life sciences. Similarly to Bio-protocol, researchers and suppliers can upload details protocols outlining improvements to existing procedures or just sharing a completely new experimental process. Researches can comment and leave questions on protocols. What sets Protocols.io apart from other protocol databases is that users can clone and edit protocols when they find out something new and want to update what the previous author had written. There is also an application where you can access Protocols.io from your mobile device and follow the experiments step-by-step, marking each instruction complete as you go.

   
 
     

10. SciGine

SciGine is a scientific methods search engine designed to search the web and its database of updated protocols for scientific methods. After finding a protocol, you can edit it to match exactly how you performed your experiment. You can then save your new edited copy and share with colleagues at your own discretion. SciGine also features a blog that provides techniques and tips for some of the most common biologic procedures such as the Western Blot.

All of these online tools can help you find protocols quickly. If there is a protocol that you cannot find, you can also turn to books such as “Current Protocols in Molecular Biology.” Sometimes you will find a protocol that is for something similar to the experiment that you want to perform, but will have to tweak and alter it to find your needs. When compiling, writing and editing your own protocols, read our article Protocol Writing in the Life Sciences.

In the interest of sharing, feel free to submit your protocols to GoldBio if you feel they might help others in the field.

     
     

    
              Rebecca Talley
         GoldBio Staff Writer


Rebecca is a medical student at the University of Missouri.
She previously worked as a lab technician while studying
biology at Truman State University. As an aspiring
reproductive endocrinologist with an interest in global
health, Rebecca has traveled across Central America on
medical mission trips. With a passion for the life sciences,
she enjoys writing for GoldBio.

 

Category Code: 79107, 79108, 79109

Posted by Megan on August 8th, 2017  ⟩  0 comments

We’re nearing a pinnacle of astronomical excitement: a solar eclipse is set to cover all of North America on the 21 st of August. A broad line through the United States from Oregon to South Carolina will receive a total eclipse, other areas witnessing partial obscuration of the sun. Total solar eclipses appear somewhere on Earth every one or two years; identical eclipse events occur about every two decades, making them rare. The area around GoldBio will be at the core of this astronomical phenomenon.

Astronomy is a science separate from our expertise in biotechnology, but it is no less fascinating to us as everyday scientists and curious humans pondering the complexity of our solar system. To inform you on the impending eclipse, we’ve done some research to help readers understand the eclipse’s origins, predict what it will look like in your area and maximize a safe viewing experience.



2017 Solar Eclipse Facts



Science of solar eclipses

Astronomers have worked for centuries to expel myths of celestial entities that consume the sun or punish humanity by temporarily stealing our light source. Science provides us with alternative, more accurate interpretations for eclipse events, excluding omens and superstition.

An eclipse occurs when one celestial body – either the sun or the moon – is made invisible by another, an incident known as occultation. Predictions on each eclipse are made based on geometric calculations of alignment to determine the path, duration and completeness of the occultation. Eclipses are cyclical, their frequency based on the orbit patterns of the sun, moon and Earth.

There are two types of eclipses: lunar or solar. The lunar variation happens when Earth moves between the sun and moon, blocking sunlight from the smaller of the two. This shadow obstructs our vision of the moon, and resulting obstruction can be hours long.

Solar eclipses manifest when the moon comes between Earth and sun. Light is blocked from Earth and causes the sun to be partially or fully obstructed. This can only transpire during a new moon and a period when the sun and moon are aligned to overlap in front of Earth. Between two and five solar eclipses occur annually.

Solar eclipses are ellipse-shaped and come in partial, annular and total forms. Partial eclipses cover some or most of the sun; they are prevented from complete coverage if the alignment of the sun, Earth and moon is imperfect. Eclipses are considered annular when the moon is far from Earth (nearer its “apogee”) and doesn’t completely block the sun, leaving an outer ring of the larger sphere visible.

Total eclipse is the rarest of the forms and is witnessed by only a small portion of Earth. It requires the perfect alignment of all three bodies. The umbra, also known as the “zone of totality,” is a central concentration of the moon’s shadow that produces the total eclipse over a fraction of the moon’s path. If you are beneath the umbra, only the corona of the sun will show around the moon’s edges to illuminate Earth. This results in a light quality synonymous to nighttime and corresponding temperature drop.

For those not in the ideal center of this path, you can still see a partial eclipse. Located in the penumbra – the larger and less intense of two shadows being produced by the moon – you can still have partial to majority obstruction of the sun. The entire path of a solar eclipse can be 10,000 miles long. While the umbra is typically 70-100 miles across, the penumbra can be larger than 4000. Solar eclipses only last for a few minutes, but the experience is lifelong and unforgettable.



August 21st eclipse

Now for the profile of our featured eclipse. This eclipse meets all of the requirements for production: it will be a new moon near enough to Earth in its elliptical circuit to cover the entire sun. It also crosses Earth’s orbital plane – despite a five degree difference in orbits, there are two points (nodes) where the Earth and moon’s paths align perfectly, and the moon will enter one of these on the 21 st of August.

Three cycles had to align for this to occur: the new moon (the familiar synodic month, 29.530 days); the moon reaching its closest point has to Earth (an anomalistic month, 27.554 days); and the moon entering a node (a draconic month, or 27.212 days). This convergence of three characteristics is completed every Saros cycle, a fixed period which produces the combination every 18 years, 11 days, and eight hours.

For those in the zone of totality, you will first see Baily’s beads surrounding the moon as it moves in front of the sun. These spots of light are where canyons on the moon’s surface let out portions of sunlight. Complete obstruction will follow, allowing only the sunlight’s corona ring to be visible. You may be able to see the chromosphere, solar prominences and occasional solar flare from behind the moon’s outer edges. Stars will decorate the readjusted darkness of the cosmos. For those in partial obstruction, you’ll experience a crescent-image of the sun and altered beams of light. Not as fantastic, but definitely still an astounding experience.

This particular eclipse will cross the U.S. in one and a half hours at 1462-2955 mph speeds, traveling slower nearer the center of the continent.



Baily's Bead - 2017 Solar Eclipse Facts



Location

The path and geography of the moon as well as your location on Earth’s surface will impact your viewing quality. Being outside the umbra’s range will put you at a lower percentage of sun coverage, and the further you are from this central shadow, the more sun you’ll see in a partial eclipse. Outside of the penumbra, other countries and continents will not experience an eclipse whatsoever. Additionally, high elevation may shift you in or outside of the moon’s shadow.

By state, the best locations will be found in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Tennessee and South Carolina, all of which are practically bisected by the umbra’s path. Other states including Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia and North Carolina will have smaller encounters with the umbra. The remaining continental U.S. will experience a penumbra and subsequent partial eclipse.

Astronomers have produced intricate reference maps for the duration and totality of darkness you will experience at any locale. Here are a couple of these advanced models:

Interactive map by NASA

Eclipse totality and time calculator based on location

This phenomenon has not intersected the entire country for almost a century, and the next total eclipse over the United States will be in 2024, so don’t miss out – plan according to any distance you might travel to reach the umbra’s path and hope the weather supports your viewing!



Precautions

Safety should be taken into consideration for viewing the eclipse. There is always a risk of partial blindness as a result of looking at the sun, even when sunglasses are involved; eclipse events are no exception. Damage to vision can be severe and permanent. Direct viewing of the sun without the use of specially-designed solar observing equipment (items like tanning glasses or regular sunglasses) can have lifelong consequences. It’s advised to wear certified eclipse glasses or other approved viewing equipment such as welding masks to protect your eyes during eclipse viewing.

Filtration eclipse glasses are manufactured and purchase is cheap and easy, especially when an eclipse is imminent. These glasses have solar lenses for direct viewing of the sun during partial or annular eclipses. In total eclipses, direct viewing is only safe when the photosphere of the sun is entirely obstructed, so it’s recommended you buy this equipment for viewing periods immediately preceding and following the main spectacle.

An  official safety page has been published by NASA.

Stay safe and enjoy your experience of this astronomical marvel!



References

NASA. (2017, May 3). What Is an Eclipse? Retrieved July 27, 2017, from https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents.

Resnick, B. (2017, July 25). Total solar eclipse 2017: everything you need to know. Retrieved July 27, 2017, from https://www.vox.com/science-and-health.

Space Facts. (2017). Solar Eclipse Facts. Retrieved July 27, 2017, from http://space-facts.com/solar-eclipse.  



                Megan Hardie
           GoldBio Staff Writer

Megan Hardie is an undergraduate student at The Ohio State
University’s Honors Arts and Sciences program. Her eclectic
interests have led to a rather unwieldly degree title: BS in
Anthropological Sciences and BA English Creative Writing,
Forensics Minor. She aspires to a PhD in Forensic Anthropology
and MA in English. In her career, she endeavors to apply the
qualities of literature to the scientific mode and vice versa,
integrating analysis with artistic expression.

Category Code: 79101, 79102, 79105

Posted by Megan on July 19th, 2017  ⟩  0 comments

Our increasing awareness of the human microbiome has promoted research on bacteria, fungi, pathogens and other microbes which coexist around and within our bodies. These unseen organisms influence our physiology and behavior. As methods and trajectories of such studies proliferate, scientists have expanded their perspectives to other species’ microbiomes.

Companion species – livestock providing sustenance and domesticated animals we cohabitate with – are of particular interest to researchers. One such species, cats, has validated the model of individualized microbiomes in non-human organisms. From this confirmation, we infer their distinctions originate in varied diet and environment, consequently affecting each cat’s health and behavior.

Recent science confirms that human interaction with cats has impacted their microbiome. Inversely, studies have proved companionship with cats can benefit the human microbiome. Scientists are exploring the relationship, comparing the everyday cat owner to their four-legged friend. Much of this research comes from an unlikely place – the household litterbox.



The "Kittybiome" Project and Feline Health 

A Kickstarter community project, aptly named “Kittybiome,” sought to uncover microbial subtleties concealed in the waste usually discarded by cat owners. Pioneered by researchers like Holly Ganz of UC Davis, Kittybiome engaged in “DNA sequencing technologies to explore” the microbiomes of cats, household and otherwise.

Donations were crowd-funded by largely cat owners interested in findings which would improve feline health knowledge. Donors sent samples of their cats’ feces and received their sequenced DNA in return. Alternatively, pledges were relegated to sequencing DNA from shelter cats and individuals from wild species of the felidae family, including leopards, pumas, lions and cheetahs.

They hypothesized unique colonies of bacteria impact feline health and behavior as they do in humans. Researchers anticipated a relationship between the concentration of strains and a cat’s individual characteristics: temperament, body condition, digestive patterns, indoor/outdoor living status and antibiotic exposure. Substances produced and consumed by the bacteria determines their interaction with the feline host and promote either favorable or disadvantaged health.

In the last two years, Kittybiome has been using advanced DNA sequencing techniques to determine concentrations of bacterial, fungal and other microbial populations in feline digestive systems. The process involves tactics similar to human microbiome testing. DNA is prepared to standard concentrations using PCR, purified, and then sequenced for bacterial identification. As with human microbe sequencing, ultra-high-throughput microbial community analysis is used. Kittybiome’s process features the specialized Illumina MiSeq platform to target specific DNA. Bacterial taxa are identified in a sample by their V4 hypervariable region, a portion of the 16S rRNA.

The resulting data confirms what researchers theorized. All cats display unique combinations of strains; individuals as close as housemates have varying microbial representation. Findings imply diet, breed and disease have reciprocal influences on hundreds of potential microbial phylotypes.

Kittybiome has also ratified research which diagnoses low microbial diversity as a contributor to feline digestive problems. Digestive systems with low concentrations of beneficial bacteria are more sensitive to the negative effects of stomach pathogens and antibiotic use. This month, an update to Kittybiome’s data provided the statistic that 10% cats in the U.S. and U.K. have such chronic digestive problems.

Medical progress has already resulted from Kittybiome’s data. A new treatment for feline diarrhea is being developed, microbiotic supplements which introduce and increase the presence of anti-inflammatory and digestion-promoting colonies. Trials with pets volunteered by their owners have resulted in improved microbiome representation. The study continues today with more donations – both funds and samples – promoting Kittybiome’s success as a scientific inquiry.



Health Implications for Humans

Understanding the cat microbiome doesn’t just improve the health of our pets. Past research reveals similar microbiome phylogeny and functional capacity between humans and companion species. Cats rely less on microbes for digestion than we do, but their microbiome is still an important component of general health. The presence or absence of certain strains determines wellbeing in cats and humans; both species are potential vectors for microbes passed to the other. Pet health is therefore relevant to owner health, implicit in the microbe exchange of cohabitation.

Microorganism presence is low in the “indoor microbiome” maintained by modern sanitation. At extreme levels, a hygienic environment can be disadvantageous. Underexposure to innocuous microbes can induce heightened immunological responses (i.e. allergies and asthma) – if certain strains are absent from the diet or environment, health can suffer from conditions like impaired digestion. Microbial groups are necessary for the development of functional immunological and digestive systems, so encountering harmless strains promotes long-term wellbeing.

The indoor microbiome is diversified by the presence of cats which carry different species of bacteria and fungi than humans do. Cats transfer new strains to the human environment, transporting them from outdoors and emitting species from their own dietary microbiome. Felines have been documented to incorporate 24 categories of bacterial species into our homes, indoor cats carrying less diversity.



Corroborating Research

Data has confirmed the theory of health benefits from exposure to our pets’ microbiomes. Multiple studies demonstrate companion species stimulating human immune systems during development. Infants living their first three months with pets had two times increased abundance of bacteria Ruminococcus – linked to reduced allergies – and Oscillospira – associated to decreased obesity risk. This result is consistent in subjects exposed to pets despite potential confounding factors like cesarean section, antibiotic prescriptions and breast-feeding variable between children.

Further inquiry in a 2013 survey showed infants who lived with companion species did not contract wheezy bronchitis by age two. A 16% reduction was observed in atopic characteristics with perpetual cohabitation. Pathology thus appears to be reduced by the immunological exchange with companion species.

Also recorded by the survey was an increased population of Bifidobacteria longum, complimented by lower occupation of Bifidobacteria breve. Bifidobacteria longum is important for the development of infant GIT microbiomes – results suggested that raised colonization “conferred protection” for the digestive system. Likewise, “Bifidobacterium breve heightened risk of crying and fussing during the first months of life of an infant,” so its comparatively low presence suggests profit for humans. The implication of these discoveries support the physiological gains of cat cohabitation.

Research is still being conducted to quantify the positive influence cat-vectored microbes have on other aspects of human health, digestion and mood. Future research will delve into active samples from the digestive system to visualize metabolic interactions and responsiveness. Relevant phylogeny may also be visualized in immunological systems of microbes from the nose and ears.

Science has led to an increasing appreciation for the invisible organisms of our environment. Now, we have seen the organisms we know and love – our pets – carry additional benefits for us in the form of such microbes. There is potential for future probiotic-like supplements derived from the microbiome of companion species. Until then, you can reward your furry family members with a treat for their contribution to your health. That’s a trick you can’t teach.





References

Deng, P., & Swanson, K. S. (2015). Gut microbiota of humans, dogs and cats: current knowledge and future opportunities and challenges. British Journal of Nutrition, 113(S1), S6-S17. doi:10.1017/S0007114514002943.

Gitlin, J. M. (2017, March 16). My cats poop for science. Retrieved June 28, 2017, from https://arstechnica.com/science

Kittybiome. (2015-2017). Kittybiome: kitty microbiomes for cat health and biology. Retrieved June 28, 2017, from https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/catbiome

Schiffman, R. (2017, June 6). Are Pets the New Probiotic? Retrieved June 28, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/06/well/family/are...

Whiteman, H. (2017, April 7). Pets alter infants' microbiota to lower risk of allergies, obesity. Retrieved June 28, 2017, from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles

Nermes, M. (2013). Perinatal Pet Exposure, Faecal Microbiota, and Wheezy Bronchitis: Is There a Connection? ISRN Allergy, 2013. doi:10.1155/2013/827934.



            Megan Hardie
       GoldBio Staff Writer

Megan Hardie is an undergraduate student at The Ohio State
University’s Honors Arts and Sciences program. Her eclectic
interests have led to a rather unwieldly degree title: BS in
Anthropological Sciences and BA English Creative Writing,
Forensics Minor. She aspires to a PhD in Forensic Anthropology
and MA in English. In her career, she endeavors to apply the
qualities of literature to the scientific mode and vice versa,
integrating analysis with artistic expression.

Category Code: 79101, 88241, 79102, 79105