The Fungi Kingdom

Why was the mushroom invited to the party? – Because he was a FUN-GUY!  *Ba-dum tish*

So, let us dive into the kingdom of fungi. I suppose the word “fungi” brings the image of mushrooms to your mind. These types of fungi are multicellular clusters, but other fungi exist alone as single-celled organisms, like yeast cells, which are used in bread to make the dough rise. The mushrooms we see above ground is only part of the fungus, and this part is known as the fruiting body that holds spores.

Fungi begin life as teeny-tiny spores. They are so teeny-tiny, that they can only measure a few microns in diameter! In case you didn’t know, a micron is one thousandth of a millimeter! Under the cap of a mushroom are gills that are covered in spores. A cap with a diameter of ten centimeters can produce up to ONE HUNDRED MILLION SPORES PER HOUR. 

FUN-GUY

When these spores are released, they travel through the air until they find a new home to settle and grow. This can be on soil, a pile of leaves, a log or even a piece of bread. Once settled, the spore will reach out extremely thin tubes called hyphae. These hyphae secrete enzymes that break down their food. The fungus grows and produces more hyphae within the food source.

Oh, and that fluffy stuff you find growing on bread and fruit? That is mold, a type of fungi. The furry growths are made up of hyphae that contain caps full of spores. These spores are eventually released, which settle and sprout on other foods. But before you start your hate campaign on molds, there is a type of blue mold called Penicillium that grows on fruit. It produces a molecule used in the antibiotic, Penicillin, which helps fight against bacteria inside the body!

Fungi are incredibly important to the natural world. They are nature’s decomposers. For instance, they break down woody lignin. So without them, we would have plenty of trees but very little soil. They also share an important relationship with many plants. The mycorrhizal group of fungi uses its hyphae to extend a plant’s roots. This provides the plant with beneficial nutrients such as zinc and phosphorus, as well as better access to water. In return, the fungi receive sugar that the plant creates through photosynthesis. So if you are a food lover, thank fungi for healthy food crops!

You can find more about fungi in my upcoming book, Microbes. The book will be released the beginning of December, but available to pre-order mid-November. It will be available to purchase through Amazon, Waterstone’s and my publisher, Thunderstone Books.

I hope you enjoyed this informative article on fungi, and have found a new appreciation for them! Until next time!

Amy

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Viruses. Not the computer kind.

Viruses are one of the smallest and deadliest of all the microbes. They’re so small that you need a very powerful microscope to be able to see them. Viruses can infect people, animals, and plants and can spread very quickly. They cause many diseases, some of which you might have already experienced, such as colds, flu, and chicken pox – very itchy spots!

Viruses are very nasty. They are villains of the microbiology world! Viruses can only reproduce through the use of another cell, known as the host cell. A viron (a single virus particle) will attach and enter a host cell, and use its reproductive machinery to replicate itself millions of times. These millions of particles go on to reproduce exactly the same way, and so the infection grows and spreads rapidly. Very nasty!

host cell and viron particles

So what stops us from dropping dead when we’re infected by a virus? Well, the human body is made up of one hundred trillion cells, so in comparison to the cells in the human body, a million virons are like a raindrop in a bucket. Also, our bodies are equipped with an immune system. Your immune system defends your body against infection and illness. I discuss this further in my book!

Viruses can be passed on through physical contact or through the air when someone sneezes. Doctors and scientists recommend reducing the risk of catching a virus by practicing good hygiene. Wash your hands after you cough or sneeze, before handling food, and after you use the bathroom! It is also recommended supporting your body by maintaining a healthy diet, for instance eating plenty of various fruit and vegetables, as well as keeping active and getting enough sleep.

I hope you’ve enjoyed and learned something new from this feature on viruses! Make sure to pass on this valuable information! I also hope this helps you fight the oncoming cold and flu season! 🙂

 

Silica Gel. What is it and why shouldn’t we eat it?!

Hello all!

Do you ever come across those tiny sachets in your new box of shoes or leather bags, with the text “SILICA GEL, DO NOT EAT”. Have you ever wondered what silica gel actually is? What purpose does it hold?

I’ve written about silica in the Algae chapter of Microbes, but I shall dive a little further here, as well as give you a little glimpse of the chapter’s contents!

So, silica, (also known as silicon dioxide), is the same material that makes up sand and quartz. It adsorbs water vapour, which means water molecules stick to its surface. Silica is covered in teeny tiny pores that retain moisture. Therefore, it can reduce the amount of humidity and condensation, as well as stop the development of mold in a container, such as a shoe box, leather bags, packaged electronics, and even kitty litter!

Silica also exists inside us! It’s in human connective tissues, bones, teeth, eyes, glands, organs and skin. In addition, it can be obtained from a group of microscopic algae called Diatoms. This phytoplankton live in both fresh and salt water. A unique feature of diatoms is their outer cell wall, called a frustule (pronounced: “frush-tule”). Frustules are mainly formed of silica, so when Diatoms die, their bodies decay, but their silica wall remains. Over time the force of the water pushes silica together to form one giant layer. This is then mined, crushed and used in sachets of silica gel that we find today!

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So why does silica gel packets tell us not to eat it? Silica gel isn’t actually harmful in small quantities, not that I’m advising you to eat it! However, some gels are coated in substances which are toxic, such as cobalt chloride. Furthermore, it is a choking hazard for very young children who can mistake it for food. So, for those reasons, the “DO NOT EAT” is used as a precautionary sign.

I hope you enjoyed this post on silica! The joke illustration you can see is actually from the Microbes book! The book will be available to pre-order in three months time, but I’ll be writing more of these insightful posts leading up to that date.

Do make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out on this upcoming great content!
Till next time.

Amy

Dominic Walliman gives a book blurb for Microbes!

My publisher, Thunderstone Books, got in touch with physicist and science communicator, Dominic Walliman, to ask his opinion of Microbes! Dominic Walliman writes the famous Professor Astro Cat series, including Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space. He also makes YouTube videos explaining science.

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This is what he had to say…

“Packed full of excellent information, I learned a lot from reading this book.
(Its true, I did!)”
I’m thrilled that Dominic Walliman took the time to read my book, and even he learned something new! Thanks Dominic!

Thunderstone Books Interview Me!

Hello everyone!

Microbes is being published under Thunderstone Books, a husband and wife team who believe in the importance of making education fun for children. We share the same ethos in striving to bring forward exciting and engaging children’s books to encourage learning. They recently interviewed me for content for their blog, and I thought I’d share that interview here as it gives a great insight into Microbes and myself.
I hope you enjoy it!

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All around us there are organisms that are invisible to the naked eye, organisms called microbes. You can learn all about microbes in the adorable new picture book Microbes by Amy Gallagher. ThunderStone Book is proud to announce that this creative look at microorganisms is coming to a store near you in November!

Today we welcome Amy Gallagher, author of Microbes, to tell us more about herself and her upcoming book.

 

About Microbes

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Microbes is a fun and educational book on microbiology. It gives an overview of six different types of microbes, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, algae, protozoa and archaea. I combine easy-to-understand, digestible information with playful, zany characters that represent different microscopic organisms. My intentions for this book are to engage the reader’s attention, spark their interest in science, and make learning an overall positive, enjoyable, and enlightening experience.

 

The idea for Microbes

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My attention into microbiology was first caught upon a visit to the Grant’s Museum of Zoology in London. This museum contained an amazing vast collection of 20,000 microscope slides, representing tiny creatures that make the majority of life.

I began reading further into the wonder of the microscopic world, especially microbiology. During my research, I noted many books and websites using very dull, black and white, accurate illustrations or plain photographs to offer a visual insight into this secret universe. As a practising children’s illustrator, I wanted to breathe life and excitement back into this subject, and came up with the idea to produce a fun and educational book around Microbiology.

 

What is your favorite type of microbe?

My favourite type of microbe is archaea. They are amazingly resilient organisms that can withstand and thrive in extreme environments. There is much still unknown about archaea, yet I look forward to scientists unearthing more fascinating facts and interesting information!

 

How did you become an illustrator/author?

I’ve been working as a freelance illustrator since university, yet I’ve been creative and handy with a pencil from a very young age. After graduating university with a degree in Illustration & Visual Media in 2015, it felt natural to continue with my creative path. I’ve been producing children’s illustration, design, greeting cards and comics since graduating. After creating Microbes in the same year, it’s been a goal of mine to share it with the world, and fulfil my desire to make learning a more fun experience for children. I am thrilled that Thunderstone Books share the same ethos and are excited by the book as much as I am. It’s spurring me on to continue as an illustrator, and I plan to write and illustrate more fun educational books for young audiences!

 

What are your favorite picture books?

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I love children’s books that possess a strong message, contain distinctive beautiful illustrations, and aren’t afraid to tackle taboo subjects or cheeky humour. One of my favourite books growing up was a book called The Story of the Little Mole who knew it was none of his business.

It follows a grumpy mole on his quest to find out who did their business on his head. I’m also a huge fan of Tove Jansson’s Moomin books.

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Tove Jansson is my favourite children’s author and illustrator. Her precious books cover themes of family, nature, adventure, philosophy and also subtly tackles difficult subjects such as loss, gender, and sexuality.

 

What advice would you give to young readers?

Don’t stop reading! Literature enriches and expands your mind! It can be enjoyed in different mediums such as paperbacks, e-readers, newspapers, magazines, blog posts, comics and graphic novels. I understand that young readers have a pressure to mature into reading material with less and less pictures, and heavier on words. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing, but the combination of word and art can support each other, and can make the material more engaging. Therefore having time for both types of material should still be encouraged, shared and enjoyed!

 

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I was delighted to answer these interview questions for Thunderstone Books and be able to share Microbes with their audience. Many thanks to them for featuring my book and myself on their blog! If you’d like to find out more from Thunderstone Books do visit http://thunderstonebooks.com/

Till next time!

Amy

Microbes

Welcome to the Microbes blog! My name is Amy and I’m the creator of Microbes!

Microbes is a fun and educational book on Microbiology. It is suited for children aged around 8-12 years old, but can be enjoyed by adults too! Its six chapters offer an interesting insight into different groups of microbes including bacteria, virus, fungi, algae, archaea and protozoa. The book features a wide range of playful characters with easy to understand information, and colourful yet simple design to make learning stimulating, engaging, but ultimately fun!

Microbes will be published by Thunderstone Books, a children’s educational publisher (http://thunderstonebooks.com/). It will be released at the beginning of December, but it will be available to pre-order mid-November. Leading up to the release date, I’ll be sharing special content on this blog including excerpts from the book and playful content like drawings and animations!

I’m super excited to share more to do stay tuned! 🙂

Till next time,
Amy