Homemade Microbiology, and what can go wrong!

Last semester a student-led protest did this to my automobile and caused the university to stop classes for 5 days. This semester I had to make a tough choice. There was an intense confrontation between the Authorities of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo and the Association of Dominican professors. A tumultuous standoff that postponed classes for three weeks. So I had to decide whether I would stay and take the abuse, or move on and leave them be to their own ills. This won’t be the first horror story you’ll hear about the situation at the Oldest University in the New World, but I don’t want to turn this into a political piece trying to resolve someone else’s problem. This is to show you a silly little experiment I tried to do for a class in hopes of shedding some light on how easily it is to find microbes to experiment with.

It may look like a homemade kitchen, but those are the conditions of the labs where students are dealing with Level II pathogens.

As you’ll see throughout the video there are numerous violations of lab safety standards everywhere. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what that can cause, but just in case you have no idea take a look at this.

 

That my friends is a nasty case of what is known in the “Biz” as Community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA). Contaminated by the handling of lab materials in precarious conditions. I’m just glad it was something treatable. I was a bit surprised by how relaxed people were around this case as if it happened all the time.

O.K., this wasn’t a negative piece about bacteria either. This is more to showcase the ease of finding and culturing Bacteria with minimal supplies. We might even be able to call this “Off-grid Microbiology”, but not really. I’m sure science purist will appreciate the resemblance to working conditions in the 19th century.

The microorganisms we culture on the video are not known to be pathogenic. However, when taking environmental samples near public bathrooms (like we did) there could always be the possibility of a potential pathogen, so proper safety form during collection is also recommended.

This species has many pathogens but also many uses. It is actually the organism responsible for the luscious lips of celebrity starlets. It is also used all over the industry as a decomposing agent to create a biochemical synthesis.

Although we were able to get mixed cultures who morphologically resembled Clostridium Sp. the results were inconclusive due to lack of biochemical or genetic testing in the form of PCR analysis. This would be the only sure way to tell which organisms were really present.

So to answer, the initial question. I’m still unsure if I will return to the University. It seems their problems are getting in the way of progress, and I just don’t have the time or energy to deal with internal politics. I’m going to take a sabbatical for a year and try to get hired at a good lab. I’m afraid if I keep accepting these working conditions I’ll develop bad behaviors that will be difficult to change later and that’s no way to successfully create a biotechnology start-up.

Opps, almost forgot to mention that the main picture is a cross section of a male Horse’s gonad.Just in case anyone wanted to know.

 

How much plastic is there in the Ocean?

To be honest, I’m a bit confused on the facts. I know there are tons of plastic debris floating around the world. The thing that really confuses me is how they affect the Ecology of the Ocean. I’d like to share some light on my understanding of this, and also use one of my most recent trips to the Dominican Republic as a case study to shed some light on the horrendous effects of plastics in the Oceans.

So, I guess the first thing would be to explain what type of plastic is harmful, and how they affect the environment. Trust me, it is way too complicated for a blog post. All you really need to understand is that there is the plastic you can see and Microplastic. In reality, they are both equally damaging, they simply affect different populations within the hydrosphere. The seeable plastic can be as large as a football field, it could be in the form of netting, cord, fishing line, or sheets.Sometimes it is a mixture of plastics that create this huge patch miles long. In my opinion, the most dangerous kind are the microplastics. This is what larger plastics photodegrade to. It also comes in an added component from detergents and beauty products. Remember the first time you tried Oxiclean face wash with microbeads? Those microbeads are small pieces of plastic that interact with sea life at a microscopic level. Not only do they harm organisms like Bacteria, and Plankton, but they are also finding themselves in the trophic chain, and into our table.

In the featured image you see two young boys helping their father get ready for his daily fishing run. They have many plastic cases that they use to store or transport things in their boats. However this isn’t the problem, most of these containers will make it back to shore and be reused again, and again until they fail. The problem lies within the general population and their disregard for where their plastic ends up.

This is Juancho, Pedernales One of the most beautiful coasts in the Caribbean, and home to the Dominican Republic’s largest wind energy project.

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This region is one of the country’s most impoverished areas, yet it boasts one of the largest natural parks in the country, Parque Jaragua. This place has the potential to be one of the hidden jewels of the Caribbean, however, we need to better manage the trash that floats into this area.

In this Video, I’d like to give you a brief overview of the marine plastics situation in a small fishing community from the Southwestern province of the Dominican Republic.

I have not had the time to add English captions, but I’m working on it.
There isn’t much speaking since we are on the back of a 70cc motorcycle.