In my quest to rule microbiology with an iron fist, I am spending six weeks this summer in Woods Hole, MA in a microbial diversity course at the MBL (formally: Marine Biological Laboratories). This is awesome news for my future as a scientist - as it has been three days and already I've learned an amazing amount of material.
[It is kind of bad news because my fledgling relationship with Bombshell may be strained as the six weeks drag on. She also happens to be studying for a major grad school exam, further adding to her stress level. I have complete faith that everything will be fine - it would so suck otherwise - but she may come and visit over 4th of July *fingers crossed*]
Microbes are funny things to work with. You can't capture individuals like in classical ecology and studying how they grow is limited to the species we can grow in a lab - which is not a lot. Maybe about 1% of all species can be cultured with our current know how, which is really small considering there is more bacterial species on Earth than there are visible stars. But some of the ones we can grow are ridiculously awesome. Like this one:
These organisms are bioluminescent. When cell densities reach a certain threshold, all the neighboring cells begin to glow. This picture was taken with my regular camera in a dark room - no other light source. No UV light - this isn't like a black light poster. They are so bright you can actually read my writing on the Perti dish in the lower part of the picture (it's upside down).
I am not sure which species this is right now. We'll be identifying it using molecular/DNA techniques later this week. I'll keep you informed because I know you are on the edge of your seat.