What is the microbiome?

We use the term “microbiome” to refer to communities of microorganisms (and organisms too small to be seen without a microscope) found in a particular place and/or time. For example, the “human microbiome” refers to the microorganisms found in and on humans, broadly.

The “human skin microbiome” refers to just those found on / in human skin. “Mallory’s Microbiome” would refer to the microbial communities found in and on Mallory (Jonathan Eisen’s cat). And a key fact is that microbes (and microbiomes) are present in, and play key functional roles in, just about every environment found on Earth and even some outside of Earth (e.g., the International Space Station). 

What are microorganisms?

Microorganisms, or microbes, are organisms too small to see without the aid of a microscope. There are a great diversity of kinds of organisms that fit this definition including many that may be familiar to most people (e.g., bacteria, viruses, yeast) as well as many that may be less familiar (archaea, Dinoflagellates, ciliates, and many many more).

Although people may be most familiar with those microbes that harm other organisms at times (e.g., many agents of infectious disease are microbes), there is an enormous diversity of activities in the microbial world that do not revolve around killing other organisms. For example, microbes play key roles in global nutrient cycles, in decomposition of organic matter, and in the health and well being of many plants and animals and other “macro-organisms.”

Do you have a physical location?

We are a virtual hub and do not have a physical location.

Does the program itself conduct research?

The program does not conduct research, we are more of enablers of research providing opportunities for collaboration, communication resources, education, and training.

We do not focus on a single area of microbiome research such as human health or medical applications, but rather capitalize on the many areas of expertise we have at UC Davis.