Often when microbiologists begin to explore an unknown (or relatively unknown) environment, they begin by using classical microbiological techniques to try to characterize the communities of microbes living in that environment. These classical techniques are often referred to as “culture-based” because they are oriented towards the goal of trying to grow (or culture) microbes in the lab. Although culture-based techniques can be limiting (it’s nearly impossible to culture every single organism in any given environment), they are very useful for laying the foundation for the non-culture-based techniques the Seagrass Microbiome project will be using.
As a result, we in the Eisen lab have been playing around with some classical microbiology techniques alongside our non-culture-based explorations. One of the coolest techniques we’re using is Winogradsky columns. Winogradsky columns are essentially microbial terrariums. The basic recipe is as follows: take a clean tube, add a few essential chemicals, spike in some wild microbes, close the lid and let natural nutrient cycles take over. If you’ve done everything right, in a couple of weeks, you should start to see layers of microbes each living in a different mini niche within your mini ecosystem.
Two weeks ago we did just that. We’ve been following the progress of the tubes on the side as we pursue other non-culture-based projects. We’ve also been exploring different ways of making the columns to figure out the best way to get clean layers while still preserving the integrity of the column. Below are some pictures of our progress to date:
Two Days in:
One week in:
1.5 weeks in:
9 Days in:
2 weeks into the experiment: