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I’m here in Mexico, Cuatro Ciénegas to be exact, one of my favorite places.

A place I have spent some time looking at the mountains and thinking for almost six years.

It’s a valley.

It’s a desert.

It’s an oasis.

There are things here that are found nowhere else.

There are about twenty five of us, from several nations, here to investigate nature; the fishes, the plants, the animals, and last but not least, tiny little microscopic creatures. Permits in hand, we have been at it for about a week now and have only about 2 days left to go.

This is my day job.

I thought you might like to see science, in the field, real time, in a real place.

Guess what this is?

They are big balls of bacteria, millions of them, a community of them in fact, and because they live in hard water, they make these rocks that surround their little bodies that look just like coral, but aren’t. Cool, huh?

We dive with our snorkels and pick them up and then we start the experiments.

Field work is a lot about accounting. That is Jess, a most amazing graduate student and me, recording.

We put them in here. You might be wondering what happens when we put them there.

We are checking to see what happens when they eat junk food.

Seriously.

Even in the world of microbes, the quality of the food you ingest matters, although it might be measured a bit differently (as opposed to calories, empty or otherwise… for microbes it’s about atoms… it’s the ratios of important elements that they are around – phosphorus, carbon, and nitrogen).

What might be the good of all this you ask.

It’s all about understanding, if even in a small part, the world around us.

Understanding how microbes evolve, what they eat, how they survive, let’s us understand what is going when they interact with us.

Which they do. All the time, mostly for good but sometimes bad.

But here, in Cuatro Cienegas, the microbe world… it’s all quite beautiful… and so is the rest of this oasis.