SEP 02, 2015 01:30 PM PDT

How Anthropogenic Chemicals are Altering the Microbial World

Presented At Microbiology
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  • Postdoctoral Research Associate in Microbiology at the Biology and the Built Environment Center at University of Oregon
      Dr. Erica Marie Hartmann is an environmental microbiologist interested in the interaction between anthropogenic chemicals and microbial communities. She was the first graduate of the interdisciplinary Biological Design PhD program at Arizona State University where she worked with environmental engineers to develop molecular methods to detect microbes in food, soil, and water samples. From there, she was awarded a Fulbright to study microbes that degrade the toxic, carcinogenic pollutants known as dioxins in France at the Commission for Atomic Energy. In her current work at the Biology and the Built Environment Center at the University of Oregon, Erica is leading studies on the effects of antimicrobial chemicals on the microbes found in indoor dust. In addition to her research, Erica serves on the American Society for Microbiology's Microbiome Communication Taskforce and as a University of Oregon Expert in microbiology.


    The world–as microbes perceive it–is composed of physical and chemical stimuli. These stimuli create conditions that result in life or death for microbes, affecting their survival within communities and changing the behaviors or phenotypes of surviving community members. Humans have manipulated the microbial landscape through chemistry, affecting the survival and phenotype of the microbes in and around us. For example by producing bioactive chemicals such as antibiotic drugs and antimicrobial additives, we have induced changes in the structures and functions of microbial communities in the human body as well as in the environment by favoring the proliferation of certain microbes over others and selecting for phenotypic traits like antibiotic resistance. The consequences of antimicrobial chemicals are widespread, and as they move from production to human use to the environment, they are having lasting and unanticipated impacts. Learning objectives: - Microbes’ survival and phenotype (e.g., antibiotic resistance) are affected by chemicals. - Anthropogenic chemicals (e.g., antimicrobials) exist beyond their intended lifespan, outside of their intended milieu. - Anthropogenic chemicals are changing the structure and function of microbial communities.

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