Mar 11

This semester I am teaching the elective course (kuliah pilihan) Environmental Microbiology (BIO 41730). The course deals with microbes in the natural environment.

We often think of microbes in the laboratory environment, the “pure culture” concept, meaning that we usually work with only one microbial culture in a “pure” form, not mixed with other microbial cultures.

In nature, microbes exist together with other organisms as part of an ecosystem. The abiotic factors determine They occupy a niche in the ecosystem, mostly as decomposers of organic matter or they could also be producers.

It is safe to say that microbes can be found everywhere: on the ground, in the water and even in the air we breathe. However, when we speak of a microbe’s natural habitats, it is slightly different. The atmosphere is not a natural habitat for microbes.

More and more research in microbial diversity nowadays come up with a variety of microbial habitats. What makes it more interesting is that exploration of microbial habitats are not limited to the terrestrial and aquatic habitats inhabited by other living organisms, they now go and beyond what is considered a “usual” environment. It does seem like “the sky is the limit” for microbial habitats. To date, microbes have been found to survive in habitats like volcano craters, hot water springs, hydrothermal vents and  arctic glaciers. Some extreme views are even entertaining the thought that maybe, just maybe, microbes can be found on other planets than the Earth, i.e, the planet Mars.

So is it possible that the microbes on earth have ‘relatives’ on other planets?

Mar 09

We interrupt microbiology teaching for this report: I was driving just outside campus when the car in front of me suddenly hit the brakes. Luckily I managed to brake in time. I was so annoyed but then I saw the passengers of the car look to their right so I followed the direction of their gazes and saw this beautiful biawak run up the small hill formed by the tracks. No wonder the traffic stopped.

It was about 1,5 meters long not too big. But it was impressive to watch.

However, that leads to the question. Why did the Biawak cross the road?

Answer: because its habitat on campus is being cleared for more campus development 🙁 Not to come down too hard on the rector, because UI’s conservation area is already marked. The area that’s being cleared is the ‘entrepreneuring area’. It’s said to become a gasoline/petrol station.

Hmmm… if only the biawak stayed in the conservation area, it would still be on campus.