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  • Writer's pictureEnid Gonzalez-Orta

The Importance of Studying Microbial Ecology by Caryl M.

Student in labcoat holding petri dishes
Caryl consulting with lab mates about her project

When you hear the word bacteria, what immediately comes to mind? In general, people usually associate bacteria with infections and diseases. People don’t associate it with cleanliness. Although it is true that some bacteria can lead to infections and diseases, bacteria also provide us with some benefits.

The majority of bacteria are non-pathogenic. They do not have a negative effect on us, and as mentioned before, some are beneficial for us. However, some can turn to opportunistic pathogens under conditions (Colwell, 1997). Even so, this leaves only a few bacteria that are true pathogens. From plants to humans and everything in between, bacteria exist everywhere. They are found in different environments, such as the human skin, gut and in soil.

Microbial communities play a major role in our environment. They make up the necessary essential elements such as oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen. These microbes live symbiotically with plants and animals to produce necessary vitamins, provide protection from diseases, and make essential elements more available (Stark, 2010). They have shaped human evolution and provided advances in healthcare. For example, certain bacterial species that exist in rice fields prevent the growth of fungus that causes diseases in rice. Other bacteria are fermenting microbes that aid in dairy making and fermenting vegetables, and alcoholic beverages. Most of the known and used antibiotics are obtained from bacteria as well. (Colwell, 1997).

Studying microbial diversity will allow to explore further the other ways we can benefit from microbes. Continuing to study them will further help us understand how they function and their habitats and surely find new discoveries that haven’t been discovered before. For example, by continuing to study microbial diversity, new antibiotics may be produced, potentially working better than known antibiotics for specific infections. In addition, new products produced by these microbes will ultimately lead to new chemicals for the public to use.


Colwell, R. R. (1997). Microbial diversity: the importance of exploration and conservation. Journal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology, 18(5), 302–307.

Stark, L. A. (2010). Beneficial Microorganisms: Countering Microbephobia. CBE- Life Sciences Education, 9(4), 387–389.


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