Author Archives: KCBauer

About KCBauer

Hello! My name is KCBauer and I am a PhD student at the University of British Columbia. I am a researcher, writer, musician, and explorer. Originally from Washington DC, I graduated with a BA in Music and BS in Biology in 2014. This blog focuses on the gut microbiota, the trillions of microorganisms that reside along the digestive tract. My grad research at UBC examines the role of the gut microbiota on human health, brain development, and anthropology. When I am not in the lab, I enjoy ambling through Vancity, listening to music, reading science journals, and hiking. If you have questions, ideas for blog topics, suggestions for place to visit in BC, or corrections send me an email at KCBauer@msl.ubc.ca.

HOLIDAZE UPDATE

(Or…So can I have Monday off?)

Hello Skope Explorers,

Almost two years ago I started working on posts for the Skope! Below is one of the earliest blog posts on Victoria/Labor Day weekend. I hope you enjoy this “Monday Memory”: see below for the update.

Happy Memorial Day–and thank you to the men and women that serve and have served the American (and Canadian) military!  

May Holidays:

Calendar

During May, I spent most weekends trawling through Craigslist, Amsrental, and Kijiji to search for housing arrangements in Vancouver. I found a lovely suite and e-mailed the owner for more information. The landlord mentioned that showings would be unavailable during the Victoria Day weekend, but invited me to stop by the next weekend. Then, I received a second e-mail asking whether I—a grad student from the US—celebrated Memorial Day and would prefer to visit during a weekday. As I was living in the US, showings were a no-go, but the landlord’s thoughtful response piqued my interest in differences between Canadian and US holidays.

For starters, the US observes 11 federal holidays. Canada: 9-12 holidays*. Interesting…** Obvious dissimilarities include different dates for Independence Day/Canada Day and Thanksgiving. But there is also a financial difference. The US is the only developed country without (legally required) paid holidays. In contrast, European Union countries are required to give workers four weeks of paid holiday, reported USA Today. Hmmpf…Both Canadian and US citizens celebrate a long weekend in May: Memorial Day and Victoria Day weekend, respectively. Memorial Day honors armed forces members who died in service. Memorial Day was first observed in the late 1800s. Originally called Decoration Day, citizens decorated tombstones with flowers to honor fallen Civil War soldiers. Memorial Day became a federal holiday in 1971 during the Nixon Administration. Today, US citizens continue to place flowers and flags around the tombs of fallen heroes. Members of the armed forces are honored in special church services, town parades, and memorials at Arlington Cemetery and Capitol Hill. And like Victoria Day, this weekend also marks the unofficial start of summer. Victoria Day was first celebrated on the 24th of May 1835—the birthday of Queen Victoria. Later the date marked the birthday celebration of all current and future British Monarchs. And, in 1953, the Canadian government declared Monday, May 24 as a federal holiday (if May 24 didn’t fall on Monday, future holidays would take place the Monday preceding the 25th of May). I guess I will find ways to celebrate both holidays next year, even if I can’t take both Mondays off!

Update: Yes, I found housing and I am definitely celebrating two May holidays this year 🙂

Sources + Additional Information

http://www.statutoryholidays.com/index.php

http://www1.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.asp

http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/victoria-day-only-in-canada/

*Apparently, there are 5 statutory Canadian holidays with additional paid holidays celebrated nationwide (or in the majority of the provinces). Canadians—help me out!

**If you’re curious, Argentina is the country with the most holidays: 19! In addition, there are many state holidays, as well. I spent six months studying in Entre Rios, Argentina and I really enjoyed experiencing the holiday-heavy culture.

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HAPPY EARTH DAY

Or…Beauty and the Biome 

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.
–John Muir, American Naturalist (1838-1914)

Wishing you all a beautiful Earth Day!

While rain showers halted a beach outing, I was able to enjoy beautiful photos/videos of marine life this evening. I even enjoyed a fun painting spree (thanks KB/JB for the watercolor set).

I am looking forward to spending more time in nature.  Wishing you (and your microbiome) many wild adventures!

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Behold my anatomically incorrect jellyfish!

…coloring is also creative–but sometimes you need to add brightness to a gray afternoon

PS….

1600px-Spiegeleikwal_voor_de_westkust_van_Sardinië (Fredski2013)  Cotylorhiza tuberculata, a Mediterranean jellyfish, contains several microbes within its gastric cavity. One of these microbes is an anaerobic, Spiroplasma-like bacterium. In plants, Spiroplasma are usually linked with pathology (e.g. Spiroplasma citri causing citrus stubborn disease) although the C. tuberculata bug, likely doesn’t harm the jellyfish.

For more, see: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28419691http://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/pdf/10.1094/PHYTO-06-13-0176-R 

#UNLESS, shoutout to the scientists and those who marched for science today!

SPRING UPDATES!

(Or…I passed my comprehensive exam and ran a marathon!)

Happy March 2017!

This past Sunday I ran my first marathon with my sister. The marathon idea started as a pseudo-challenge/whimsy. Last summer I survived a half marathon in Vancouver. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to run 26 miles to celebrate my 26th birthday in March? I thought*. As summer turned to fall I continued running, but definitely not to prepare for a marathon. Suddenly, Christmas was approaching and I needed to decide whether I would (or could) actually train for a marathon. I called my sister half-hoping she might talk me out of racing. Instead, she signed up to run the marathon before me! Marathon March was set.

Prepping for the marathon also allowed me to take a break from studying for my graduate comprehensive exam (see REST: https://theskope.com/2017/02/27/rest/). But sometimes I incorporated studying into the longer runs–I prerecorded study notes on my cell phone and listened to myself review research on gut microbes, malnutrition, and microglia during jogs. Several days after passing the comprehensive exam, I completed the marathon course. Still a bit brain and body sore…. 🙂

Did you know that the gut microbiota may be impacted by exercise? Researchers in Cork Ireland examined the gut microbiota of active, male rugby players and compared their gut microbes with the gut microbiota of subjects sharing a similar build. The male athletes exhibited a more diverse microbiota, a putative biomarker of health. The “athletic” microbiota also contained more Akkermansia  microbes. (These are pretty fascinating bugs: A muciniphila bacteria have been inversely correlated with obesity and may exhibit anti-inflammatory properties!)

Staying active in grad school is tough–and I am lucky to be surrounded by colleagues that study, swim, ski curl, run, and research! I wonder what sport challenge I can try next.

Thanks K2 for pushing me to race.

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Wishing you all a lovely spring.

Sincerely,

-K, PhD Candidate

*#Jenspiration

For Further Reading:

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/David_Kerins2/publication/263899981_Exercise_and_associated_dietary_extremes_impact_on_gut_microbial_diversity/links/563d332308ae34e98c4ad8fa.pdf 

http://www.pnas.org/content/110/22/9066.full

 

 

REST

(Or Happy Belated 2017!)

Don’t worry–I haven’t forgotten about the Skope, and new stories will be posted later this year! I’ve actually spent most of this month writing. My latest project has been the proposal report for my upcoming comprehensive graduate exam–ahh!! This means I’ve also been reading/studying and I’ve discovered new gut microbiota-brain stories to share in the blog. Full days of writing and exam preparation can be mentally exhausting. To combat brain fatigue, I take one day “off” each week, my day of rest 🙂

Fortunately, I’ve also had some built-in mini-breaks, including a spectacular lab ski trip! (See picture below). My first 2017 Skope post focuses on rest (perhaps an odd choice for a blog on research and graduate life!). Here are some brief reflections about incorporating “rest” into a busy, academic schedule.

  1. Is this a Goal or a Task?  I typically set unrealistic goals about what I can accomplish in one day and then I feel discouraged when I don’t complete my daily expectations. So I find it useful to prepare two lists (mental or written). On one list I write tasks. These are activities with an upcoming deadline, a “must-get-done” activity expected for work. The second list features goals, the items/activities I would really like to get accomplished, but aren’t a requirement for work. If I only finish one out of ten goals –life will still be ok, breath!
  2. There is a funny “study tip” post I’ve seen on Twitter and Facebook. The advice (modified a bit)… “stop. take a walk. walk to the airport. board a plane. leave” 🙂 Sometimes rest requires a change in scenery, not a nap. My cheap version involves jogging. Fortunately, Vancouver is a beautiful city and I enjoy running with beautiful ocean/mountain views. At times, changing scenery could involve leaving your work space for lunch or stepping outside for some fresh air. Enjoy these brief moments of rest.
  3. Because I’m in Canada–I will conclude with a quote from one of my favorite Canadian works, Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. Following an awkward incident, Anne remarks,“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” –Remember, whether your day is filled with procrastination or workaholism, tomorrow is a new day to attempt a productive and balanced living!

Happy Resting

-K

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FROM TEST TUBE to TABLE: Bridging the Gap between Life Sciences and Politics

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(Or a free, informative, interdisciplinary, food-provided conference to attend!)

This event is open to academics and the public. If you are interested in learning about how microbiology interfaces with science and society, register below to attend (1) free workshops, (2) a panel discussion that features leading scientists, authors, innovators, and artists, as well as a (3) networking dinner.

The event is hosted in part by the UBC Microbiology and Immunology Graduate Student Society.

Location: UBC, Life Sciences Centre

Date: November 23

Register: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/from-test-tube-to-table-bridging-the-gap-between-life-sciences-and-politics-tickets-29241963500?aff=eac2 

LE BATEAU AND THE BRAIN PART 1

(Or Microbes and Matisse)

Genevieve Habert stared at the abstract paper cutout with a sense of unease. Something was off about Henri Matisse’s Le Bateau (1953). Habert, a New York stockbroker and former Parisienne, was an admirer of the late French artist. Along with thousands of art fans and critics, Habert had visited the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) to view an exhibition featuring the final pieces of Matisse (1869-1954). Le Bateau portrayed a solitary boat and its reflection gliding over violet waters. But something wasn’t quite right…
Have you spotted the reason?
….Why would the artist portray the reflection as more intricate than the actual boat? Habert puzzled over the piece and arrived at a startling conclusion. The MOMA had inadvertently hung Le Bateau upside-down. Although Habert’s assertion was initially dismissed by MOMA staff, she persisted in her claim and obtained evidence that the work was hanging the wrong direction. The NY Times ran an article about Le Bateau and 47 days after Le Bateau’s debut, the MOMA turned the painting right-side up.*
I’m a fan of art museums and enjoyed researching the history of Le Bateau and Genevieve Habert. When reading the story, I was struck by the analogies linking Le Bateau with the development and concept of gut microbiota-brain interactions. (HINT: sometimes we realize that while we’ve focused on the top we should take a second look at what is on [or in] the bottom!) This past year, our lab outlined several key hallmarks of the gut microbiota-brain axis.** Over the next two months, Skope articles will examine these hallmarks and the recent science stories that reflect these gut-brain interactions.
Stayed tuned for next week’s article on microglia.
Happy Exploring
-K
Sources and Further Reading:
*http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/theater-arts/moma-hangs-matisse-le-bateau-upside-1961-article-1.2455442
**https://theskope.com/2016/04/06/microbes-and-the-mind-emerging-hallmarks-of-the-gut-microbiota-brain-axis/