The Multitudes of Microbes Within Us, A Grander View of Life: We are All Ecosystems (Second 7 weeks)
S 2018


The Multitudes of Microbes within Us, A Grander View of Life: We are All Ecosystems

The Amazing, And Only Recently Discovered Story:  How the Microbes Living in and on Us Shape the Development, Growth, and Survival of All the Plants and Animals  on the Planet

For most of human history the existence of microbes was unknown.  When they finally surfaced in biological studies, they were cast as disease causing rogues.  Only recently have the study of microbes moved from the neglected fringes of biology to its center.  Even today many people think of microbes as germs to be eradicated.  But those that live within us and on us--- our microbiome --- are invaluable and necessary parts of our lives.

Our core book and this SDG lets us peer into this world, allowing us to see how ubiquitous and vital microbes are to us, and every other organism on the planet.    How   they sculpt our organs; defend us from disease, break down our food, educate our immune systems, guide our behavior, bombard our genomes with their genes, and grant us many of our abilities.  While much of the prevailing discussion around the microbiome has focused on its implications for human health, our core book and this SDG,  broadens this focus to describe how microbes effect the entire animal kingdom—how each animal is an integrated  traveling ecosystem onto itself -- giving us a much grander view of life.

Almost all of this information is new to science, so any microbiologists among us will also have much to learn. 

Among the many  amazing tidbits we’ll uncover, are:  the fact that every single  individual is a complete and totally unique ecosystem of bacteria different from that of  every other individual;  that the number  of bacteria in 1 gram of our dental plaque is greater than the number of humans that ever lived, how within us there are 500 times more bacterial genes  than human genes, how the microbes on our left palm differ from those on our right palm, and those in our left armpit differ from those in our right; that bacteria are necessary for many  higher organisms to develop proper bodies;  that much of  the content of human breast milk is not digestible by the human  infant but instead sustain bacteria necessary for the infant’s digestive system; that bacteria constitute most of the mass of living organisms on the planet; and that 99.999 % of them are totally unknown to biologists. 

Our readable core book by a distinguished micro biologist,  reads almost like a detective story.  And we’ll supplement it with relevant videos. 

So come join us in a fascinating 7 week exploration of the amazing world of microorganisms, that shows us how  every larger organism is a complete ecosystem, and the new perspective this can give us on our lives and the lives of every creature on the planet.  And  bring your microbiome along for the ride.

After this SDG you’ll never again see yourself as an isolated individual, instead recognizing that we and all the other humans and animals are all colonies:  walking islands of interconnected life.


Topics Include:

Overview of the incredible universe that exists within the bodies of all living creatures:  our microbiome.  How microbes became visible in the 17th century by the invention of the microscope by Antony van Leeuwenhoek, master lens maker. How other investigators who followed focused on the role of microbes in disease-- but the bigger, more common story is one of symbiosis between microbe and host. 

 How symbiotic bacteria can play an important role in animal development and sculpt animal bodies.  That  microbes are beneficial to us, but they are still their own entities.  They can be our partners, but they are not necessarily  our friends.

The Origins of the relationships between microbes and their hosts. Disrupting those relationships.   Consequences of the intimate partnerships between microbes and their hosts for the fates of entire species.   How bacteria, unlike higher animals,  can carry  out horizontal gene transfers from one individual to another.

How even buildings develop a microbiome as its occupants give off microbes with every breath, every touch.  How buildings can be intentionally manipulated to benefit  beneficial bacteria.

Weekly Topics

Weekly Topics:

1)    An  overview of the World of Microbes

2)    An Overview of Evolution and How it Relates to Microbes

     3)    Chapters 1 and 2 of core book and selected  videos

4)      Chapters 3 and 4 of core book and selected  videos

5)      Chapters 5 and 6   of core book and selected  videos

6)      Chapters 7 and 8  of core book and selected  videos

7)      Chapters 9 and 10 of core book and selected videos


Core Book:  Yong, Ed;  I Contain Multitudes - The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life; HarperCollins Publishers; 2016.

Among many glowing reviewers' comments regarding our core book:

 Jack Gilbert, University of Chicago professor:  "Yong has captured the essence of this exciting field, expressing the enthusiasm and wonder that the scientific community feels when working with the microbiome ... A rip-roaring read!" 

Selected  Videos