Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Microbiology for the public - Science at the Lesher in Walnut Creek Sponsored by DOE-JGI

Well, a month or so ago I asked people for help in planning a talk on microbes to a non sciency crowd.  I got some good suggestions and, well, I think it ended up OK.  The talk I gave was part of the JGI Science @ the Theater series in Walnut Creek.  The topic was “The Deal with Carbon: How the Earth’s Mighty Microbes Respond”  and my job was to introduce microbes to set up talks by Rachel Mackelprang (on permafrost melting) and Berkeley Lab’s Terry Hazen (on microbes and the gulf oil spill).  In the beginning, JGI debuted a short video about the carbon cycle and the Berkeley Lab Carbon Cycle 2.0 initiative, created in collaboration with Illumina Visual in Emeryville.

The best part of the whole thing was meeting John Fowler from KTVU TV.  He was great.  I have a ten minute chat with him before the talks started and he inspired and impressed me with his interest in both science and science communication (see his "Side Effects" blog here and his twitter feed here).  Another good part of this event was I got to meet Terry Hazen.  We have seen each other before at conferences but never really talked.  He is doing some very interesting work on bacteria and oil spills (see the video).  I note, I am not completely convinced by his conclusions regarding microbes being "primed" to degrade/eat the oil that was spilled into the gulf but his work is still fascinating and comprehensive.  I note - it is not just that he does interesting work.  I published a paper a few years ago with his daughter Tracy Hazen on plasmids from marine sediments and I always wanted to meet her dad.

Another good thing about the night was that some of my wife's family came to the event.  That was inspiring in a way and kind of fun.  I think that was the first time they had seen me give a talk.

Anyway - I hope people like the talk I gave - it was my first real introduction to microbes and molecular studies of microbes to a non science audience.  So forgive me for some of the mistakes in there.

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