5763 Toward a Field Guide to the Microbes

Saturday, February 18, 2012: 8:30 AM
Room 205-207 (VCC West Building)
Jonathan Eisen , University of California, Davis, CA
The concept of a "field guide" is pervasive in many scientific areas including those focused on groups of organisms.  Perhpas the most commonly used are those focusing on birds, but others focusing on trees, reptiles, mammals, sharks, fish and diverse "macroorganisms" are common.  Field guides are so useful because they contain valuable information about organism taxonomy, biogeography, ecology, function, and means of identification.  Alas, there are no reasonable field guides to microbes.  I will discuss here how the concept of a field guide is a useful organizing theme for microbiology researchers and how a coordinated community effort, with the assistance of citizen scientists, could help achieve at least a first pass "field guide to the microbes."  Such a field guide would have immense value in many areas from microbial ecology, to studies of the build environmment, to biodefense, to studies of plant and animal microbiomes, to epidemiology of infectious disease.  In all cases, we need to know the "normal" patterns of taxonomy, biogeography, ecology, function, and means of identification in order to then identify what is "abnormal" in various situations.