20 Apr Micropia: making the invisible visible

This is how you see the lab through the window in MicropiaThe laboratory of Micropia (by Maarten van der Wal)

The science of the invisible
This year the first microbiology museum in the world has opened its doors here in Amsterdam. Micropia is part the famous Artis zoo and is situated right next it. It was about time a museum was dedicated to the largest part of organisms on our planet, about two-third of the organisms on earth are microbes. Scientists have estimated there are approximately 100 million species of micro-organisms on earth. A lot of these species can be seen in Micropia, from viruses, to fungi to waterbears. Microbes are invisible, indispensable, have vital roles in almost every ecosystem, they participate in nitrogen and carbon cycles, they help produce some of your favourite foods and keep us alive by means of a symbiotic relationship.

Villa slime mould

A new house for mister slime mould with complimentary oat flakes

French kissing and bird flu
But what is there to see in this museum full of invisible creatures? Well a lot, thanks to Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, the creator of the first microscope. Through different interactive setups you’ll learn which microbes are in and on your body and what they do for you, you find out that you are exposed to 80 million bacteria by French kissing for only 10 seconds, you can admire beautiful glass models of viruses such as Ebola and bird flu and you can explore the wall of petri-dishes filled with all kinds of fungi and bacteria, which looks like a real piece of art. Every now and then scientists give lectures about the different organisms that can be found in the museum, if you would like to visit one of those lectures check their Facebook page.

Isn’t this art? The fungi and bacteria look beautiful in their petri-dishes with coloured agar.

The wall of petri-dishes (by Maarten van der Wal)

A day in the lab
I work in the  Micropia lab as a volunteer, so I can take you behind the scenes. You could see the museum as a zoo for really tiny animals and the lab technicians are the zookeepers. In the lab we prepare food, make growth media and cultivate microorganisms. The fun thing is that the laboratory has a big window so the visitors can watch the processes in the lab. Sometimes we  got to be creative, for example when making a labyrinth or a nice house for the slime mould to grow on. A little media attention is also part of the job, because this museum is a world premiere, TV crews from all over the world visit Micropia.

Become a microbiologist!
The field of microbiology needs you! It is full of exciting developments and innovations and it needs students like you to keep developing and innovating. Check this out if you’re interested in the enormous world of microorganisms: university programmes, IBED and SILS.

Come visit Micropia, say hi to me in the lab and let me know what you think of the museum in the comments!



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WTF fanny

WTF fanny

Biologist (no tree hugging involved), enthusiastic, researcher, studious, creative, witty, the new Jacques Cousteau.
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