Making a Microbe Manor

Create your own multi-layer bacterial community in a Microbe Manor AKA the Winogradsky Column.

This is a new project, and it’s a work in progress. I’m pulling from different educational and web-based sources (HHMI’s Biointeractive Materials are a great place to start). Will update as I go 😀

Assemble your collection team.

Drs. Sporn and Milewski joined me to collect the Winogradsky Column starter soils from Lower Saint Regis Lake–three were collected near high-impact areas, and one was collected in a minimum-impact area. All are areas that Dr. Milewski and several undergraduate capstone projects have been studying for a long-term ecological restoration project.

We found some iron-oxidizing bacteria hanging out by a spring that feeds into the Lower Saint Regis. These bacteria are natural (iron is EVERYWHERE, and yummy to these specific types of bacteria), leave this orange gunk behind, and they’re harmless.

After a short afternoon, we enjoyed the epic views on the Winter Solstice!

Solstice Sunset on the Lower St. Regis.

Building your columns

I brought the samples back to my office and tried to isolate the sand/soil parts and avoid the roots, rocks, branches, etc. as much as I could. I added some noms for the bacteria: each sample got a sprig of hay (carbon source) and a whole egg hacked to pieces (shell=calcium, egg yolk=sulfur). I felt like I was making a weird prank bread dough. Yum?

Even after squishing the columns to eliminate air bubbles, I still had some invertebrate survivors who made their way to the surface! They seemed pretty happy chillin’ and listen’ to music with me.

Take a look…

It takes a while for much to happen other than it smelling a little like toots. I grabbed a little bit of a biofilm that had formed at the top of one of the columns, and I took a look at it under the microscope (400 X magnification). Found some friends!


Microbes from the Lower St. Regis (Paul Smith’s NY). Isolated near an iron-oxidizing bacterial biofilm.

Stay tuned for updates…

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