1887

Microbes Should Be Central to Ecological Education and Outreach

    Authors: Albert Barberán1,*, Tobin J. Hammer2, Anne A. Madden1,3, Noah Fierer1,2
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    Affiliations: 1: Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309; 2: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309; 3: Department of Applied Ecology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 01 March 2016
    • ©2016 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: University of Colorado, CIRES, UCB 216, Boulder, CO 80309-0216. Phone: 303-492-5615. E-mail: albert.barberan@colorado.edu.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2016 vol. 17 no. 1 23-28. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i1.984
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    Abstract:

    Our planet is changing rapidly, and responding to the ensuing environmental challenges will require an informed citizenry that can understand the inherent complexity of ecological systems. However, microorganisms are usually neglected in the narratives that we use to understand nature. Here, we advocate for the inclusion of microbial ecology across education levels and delineate the often neglected benefits of incorporating microbes into ecology curricula. We provide examples across education levels, from secondary school (by considering one’s self as a microbial ecosystem), to higher education (by incorporating our knowledge of the global ecological role and medical application of microbes), to the general public (by engagement through citizen-science projects). The greater inclusion of microbes in ecological education and outreach will not only help us appreciate the natural world we are part of, but will ultimately aid in building a citizenry better prepared to make informed decisions on health and environmental policies.

Key Concept Ranking

Microbial Ecology
0.83359116
Bacteria and Archaea
0.76995814
Microbial Ecosystems
0.45174408
Biogeochemical Cycle
0.42809576
Ecological Processes
0.42136678
0.83359116

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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v17i1.984
2016-03-01
2017-08-20

Abstract:

Our planet is changing rapidly, and responding to the ensuing environmental challenges will require an informed citizenry that can understand the inherent complexity of ecological systems. However, microorganisms are usually neglected in the narratives that we use to understand nature. Here, we advocate for the inclusion of microbial ecology across education levels and delineate the often neglected benefits of incorporating microbes into ecology curricula. We provide examples across education levels, from secondary school (by considering one’s self as a microbial ecosystem), to higher education (by incorporating our knowledge of the global ecological role and medical application of microbes), to the general public (by engagement through citizen-science projects). The greater inclusion of microbes in ecological education and outreach will not only help us appreciate the natural world we are part of, but will ultimately aid in building a citizenry better prepared to make informed decisions on health and environmental policies.

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FIGURE 1

Percentage of books published over the past 60 years that mention the terms “animal ecology,” “plant ecology,” or “microbial ecology” in the text. Data from Google Ngrams ( 36 ).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2016 vol. 17 no. 1 23-28. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i1.984
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