Final draft – Microbes et al.

This is the final draft of the blog Microbes et al..

This blog is directed to the educated general public and wide science community. To advance from the first draft to this final draft I interviewed three individuals that might read my blog, as suggested by the course instructors. Basically, these are examples of my target audience:

– Maria Manuel Rola: graphic designer concerned with environmental sustainability and human impacts in the ecosystems. Maria represents the most layperson from my target audience. She was the one that suggested me to create a new section (Glossary) that provides accepted definitions for the jargon and technical words used in the posts.

– Renato Soeiro: PhD student in Mathematics with a general interest in biological sciences and human impacts in the environment. Renato represents the wide scientific community with which I want to share the knowledge and ideas from the microbial ecology field.

– Catarina Magalhaes, PhD: Catarina Magalhaes is a Post-doc researcher and expert in microbial ecology and nitrogen cycling from University of Porto, Portugal. Catarina represents a target audience that is automatically interested in the blog due to her field of expertise.

The three “personas” gave very positive and constructive feedbacks on the blog. It was very interesting to notice that the “Postcards from the field” and “Postcards from the lab” were very satisfactory to all members of the target audience. Lesson learned: Using pictures is absolutely helpful to “attract” the audience.

Obviously, the two people that are not experts from my field, Maria and Renato, had trouble understanding some of the words used. For that reason, I created the Glossary page and I plan to write more simply from now on. I plan to post to the blog 3 times per month. This frequency might be challenging but since I have different contents to publish I think it’s realistic.

Below are some screenshots of the later version of the blog.

Let me know if you want access to the blog to check out the following contents already added:

  • About Microbes et al page
  • About Miguel’s current research page
  • Glossary page
  • post in “News from Miguel’s research”
  • post in “Postcards from the lab”
  • post in “Postcards from the field

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First Draft: Microbes et al.

Microbes et al.

In this first draft I present the layout of the personal blog I’m developing for this seminar. The blog will be called “Microbes et al.” and it’s under the WordPress system. The name is an allegory to the major role of microbes in shaping the environment and the ecosystem.

The audience for this blog is the curious general public concerned about environmental sustainability. Examples of this audience are NGO coordinators, extension officers, environmental journalists, the wide science community, and graduate students. This blog will be a resource to an increasing group of professionals and individuals that seek reliable and sound information on how human activities impact the sustainability of planet earth. Microbes et al. will cover topics from microbial ecology, greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient pollution, environmental pollution, and human activities.

Below is a print screen of the blog front page.

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This blog is organized into 5 main sections with a total of 7 sub sections (in a drop-down menu) as presented above and described below:

  • About – This section contains three sub sections (About Microbes et al.; About my current research (see example below); About the author). These pages will be generally static with basic information about the blog and the author.
  • Commentaries – This section contains two sub sections (Miguel Semedo; Friends). This section will have continuos posts that will include brief commentaries to recently published scientific literature. The commentaries will be written by me and peers/friends/colleagues that I’ll invite to participate.
  • Postcards – This section contains two sub sections (Postcards from the field; Postcards from the lab). Here I will add posts with pictures from my research activities with a brief description of the action (see example below).
  • News from Miguel’s research – Without subsections, here I will add the most recent news from my research. For example, if we take some results to a conference, I would add a brief summary of those results in appropriate language to lay-person audience.
  • Reports you want to know – Here I plan to add links to publicly available reports on the topics covered. Specifically, from federal and international agencies, such as USDA, EPA, or WHO, with an associated personal highlight.

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With this blog, I expect the audience to think that microbes and their activities are extremely relevant to the sustainability of earth ecosystems and that they are also susceptible to changes caused by human activities. Moreover, I expect the audience to feel that research in this field is extremely necessary so we can understand, predict, and help mitigate negative impacts of anthropogenic changes in microbial communities. I also expect the readers to share the blog contents through their social networks.

I plan to work with Janet Krenn in order to improve the blog interface and the contents selected. For now, the blog is private but let me know if you want to receive the contents already uploaded (About the blog; About my current research; Postcards from the field). The blog will become public in early January.

Miguel Semedo



Product proposal – blog to the wide science community

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are the primary cause of global warming. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a powerful greenhouse gas, 300 times more effective as carbon dioxide (CO2) trapping heat. Although CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels is the largest component of GHG emissions, N2O contributes substantially to global warming. N2O is also responsible for stratospheric ozone depletion and is projected to remain the dominant ozone-depleting substance of the 21st century. Since 1800, the atmospheric concentration of N2O increased by almost 20%. Human activities are responsible for about 30% of total N2O emissions to the atmosphere. Among these activities, soil and livestock manure management make up about 80% of total N2O emissions. If not properly managed, the accumulation of manure and animal waste, e.g. in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), might drastically increase these emissions. N2O is produced biologically, mostly by certain groups of bacteria and fungi called denitrifiers. These organisms are vital for the sustainability of our biosphere, mostly due to their functions in removing excess nutrients from waterways. However, while performing these important ecosystem functions they also produce N2O. Different amounts of N2O will be produced depending on the specific microbes that predominate in the environment. Changes in the microbial community composition will significantly affect N2O emissions to the atmosphere. Understanding the chemical and physical controls of the these changes will help developing potential N2O mitigation strategies. My research aims to understand how chemical drivers alter the microbial communities composition and how does that impact N2O emissions. I’m particularly focused in how these communities respond to the increasing level of antibiotics released by human activities, such as CAFOs. Antibiotics have strong effects in the microbial communities and might lead to increased N2O emissions by bacterial and fungal denitrifiers. At the same time, antimicrobials are potentially reducing the capacity of these organisms to remove excess nutrients from the aquatic environment. I’m working to determine and quantify these effects using novel genetic approaches combined with rate measurements of these ecological processes.

One potential stakeholder to my research is a nature conservation agency, such as the eastern shore Virginia Coast Reserve (VCR) from The Nature Conservancy network. These agencies work to protect the sustainability and resilience of the ecosystems that they monitor. Some ecosystems are more susceptible to the problems I mentioned, related to the impacts of human activities in the microbial communities responsible for nutrient cycling and greenhouse gas emissions. The VA eastern shore, for example, is home of two major CAFOs and many poultry farms. High manure production, relatively small land area, and proximity to water makes the VA eastern shore prone to contamination with waste and antibiotics. This is potentially affecting the microbial communities responsible for nutrient cycling and greenhouse gas emissions. Knowing how antibiotics act on bacterial and fungal denitrifiers will help conservation agencies predicting how human activities might impact the sustainability of vital ecosystem processes. Other potential stakeholders would be environmental journalists, the general scientific community, federal or state agencies such as the VA Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and agricultural managers, such as USDA.

I plan to develop a blog directed to the general public and the wide science community. This blog will contribute to a more educated general audience. It will also be resource to an increasing group of professionals and individuals that seeks reliable and sound information on how human activities impact the sustainability of planet earth. The topics covered by these blog will range from microbial ecology, greenhouse gas emissions, livestock and poultry industry, to environmental toxicology. This blog will contain a variety of materials and resources such as:

  • commentaries to recently published scientific literature. In this section of the blog I will publish my commentaries to technical literature and regularly invite one fellow researcher to write his/her commentary.
  • disclose and highlight publicly available reports on the topics covered. Specifically, documents from federal or international agencies such as USDA, EPA, WHO that report on human activities, greenhouse gas emissions and antibiotics in the environment.
  • suggest books on the covered topics directed to a general educated audience.
  • besides revealing some results from my own research I plan to have sections about my research activity, such as “postcards from the field” or “postcards from the lab” with pictures from the field and the lab respectively.

All these materials will potentially raise awareness on the general public and facilitate scientific conversation among different scientific disciplines.