Microbial ecology: follow your nose

The arrival of tropical storm Lee has broken a month of drought. After weeks of heat and no rain, we’re getting a steady downpour that so far has lasted 24 hrs, with another day or so to come. Lee is an insistent fellow who may yet outstay his welcome.

One of the many benefits of the return of the rain is the reactivation of the microbes that have been in suspended animation in the dry soil. We can’t see them, but we can smell them. Their odors waft up to us as we walk — some are musty, some sharp, others are rounded and pleasant. The actinobacteria are particularly special. They smell of healthy, rich soil. These actinobacteria are a diverse group, some of whose members gave us chemicals that we use as antibiotics.

I’ve prepared an online experience of the richness of these creatures for you. Follow the instructions below:

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