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Finding Genius Podcast

Jun 28, 2019

Jamie S. Foster, Professor, Microbiology & Cell Science, University of Florida, provides an interesting overview of the many benefits of microbes.


Dr. Foster’s research program is keenly interested in and focused on, the cooperation and actions between microbial communities and their neighboring environments, to improve understanding of the various molecular mechanisms that select microbes utilize to respond and adjust to variations and modifications in the environment. Her work is specialized in multiple areas of interest, including metagenomics, environmental microbiology, microbial ecology, host-microbe interactions, space biology, and metatranscriptomics.


Dr. Foster discusses her background and her overall interests in the field. She states that her research is varied and wide, from studying microbes within squid to the microbes that form rocks in the environment, and beyond. From what we eat to almost everything we interact with—is the product of microbes, she states.


The Microbiology & Cell Science expert explains that 90% of the cells in our bodies are microbial. She states that while eukaryotic cells are larger, we are in fact mostly microbes in terms of sheer number. Dr. Foster elaborates on squid and talks about the microbes that cover them as they swim through the water. She explains ‘a mutualistic symbiosis,’ which is when a bacterium is assisting the host to perform a specific function. Over time, humans have also developed special relationships with microbes. 


Dr. Foster elaborates on the selection process that takes place in organisms that allow for adaptation. As she states, bacteria will do whatever they can to survive. She outlines some specific examples regarding microbes and the selection process that is the basis of evolution. She explains how future generations are benefited by this selection process and selection pressure, improving the organism’s ability to better survive. She elaborates on what they refer to as ‘competition experimentation’ in which they may add genes or take away genes to observe how that may affect fitness, or the ability to colonize and thrive. 


The microbial expert discusses how they are working with microbes in a space environment, to better understand how immune systems of astronauts could become compromised in space. And she talks about some of the publishing they are currently conducting in regards to how beneficial microbes are critical under microgravity conditions.