Hi, we are the Mizrahi lab at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The usual questions from people outside the group – or even outside science, like many of our friends – are: What do you folks do the whole day? And why does it keep you busy for so long? Well, one could say, because we are a bunch of nerds that simply love to study microbial ecology. Fair point. One could say, we are crazy people that spend hours indulging in our research and science, most of the time getting lost somewhere on the edge between reality and the search for truth. Fair point. We could also say, we are some very lucky guys, because we get paid for dealing with some fundamental questions, actually having fun with what we do.
So, we are researching microbes, their communities and interaction with their host. If this does not sound like fun to you, let’s watch this from another angle: We could say, we are economists on a different scale. We are observing the societies of different countries, how they works and what shapes them. Pretty much, what you find in your everyday life. You need food and drink – and there are things and people you like and some you dislike. You find things and places that are good for you, that make you feel bad or that you don’t care about. It is the same for the microbes: They are the inhabitants of the societies in gut systems. And they, too, have their life: They need nutrients and some of them they consume and some of them they don’t, they can be in places or meet microbes that support their growth, that hamper their growth or that do not influence them. And also their community is shaped by resources: What is available to them? How big is the demand on a resource, what is the current offer, how strong is the competition and who has whose support? The biggest difference between economists and us is that economists usually simply ask other people what they want to know in order to understand how our society works. We cannot do that. Therefore, we get to play with many cool methods and instruments to find the answers to our questions. Recently, for example, we got our new microscope! And look at these amazing, fascinating, beautiful, and stunning view on microbes!
What you can see is the microbial community in a cow (top) and in a lion gut (bottom) in brightlight (left) and fluorescence (right) view.
We also look at the microbes individually. This is most often more difficult than you might think. They often don’t like being separated from other microbes or being taken from their natural environment. Who can blame them? Probably, it is the same as somebody taking you from your home and putting you on Mars, telling you: Thrive! Would you?