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I Am an Ecosystem

An Elementary Introduction to Microbes

By North Carolina State University 4-H

I Am an Ecosystem

196 pp., 8.5 x 11, 111 color images, 1 graph, appends

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-7329-8230-7
    Published: January 2019

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Distributed for the North Carolina 4-H

"We are not alone."

Historically, this phrase has conjured up images of aliens waiting in space to descend on our unsuspecting planet. However, advances in technology over the years have meant that "we are not alone" applies to our own bodies, our own sense of self in the universe. It turns out that we are colonial creatures. For every one of our cells that is "us," we also host ten times as many bacterial cells. Our digestive system alone is estimated to contain between 500 and 1,000 different bacterial species. Furthermore, we are learning that these bacteria and other microbes that inhabit our bodies, known collectively as our "microbiome," are essential for our survival. Our microbiome helps to train our immune system to recognize invaders. It also helps us to better process food and nutrients. Some studies even suggest that our microbiome may affect our moods! Without our trillions of hitchhikers, we would be lost. However, despite our close relationship with our microbiome, not all bacteria are helpful to us. Many bacteria, which are fine outside of our bodies, become disease-causing pathogens once they get inside. Our bodies have many natural defenses against these invaders, including our skin, our mucous membranes, and our immune system. However, some do find their way in.

In this book, you'll....

* Confront some of the myths and facts surrounding microbes in general and Salmonella in particular.

* Examine where microbes grow in the environment and under what conditions.

* Investigate the roles that microbes play in a healthy ecosystem as well as the roles that microbes play in our own bodies.

* Examine the negative effects of microbes as they investigate a disease outbreak.