Posted in Microbes

3…2…1…Microbes release!

Hello all! 🙂

I’m excited to announce that Microbes is now available! Horrah!

I’ve arranged the Microbes book launch too! Double horrah! There will be two events held at Didsbury Library, (692 Wilmslow Road, Manchester M20 2DN).

microbes book launch banner

On Thursday 7th December, I will have two Year 5 classes from St.Catherine’s Catholic Primary School to attend an hourly session of Microbes packed fun! I have designed activity sheets, colouring pages, and prepared simple science experiments.

Microbes flyer_2_rgb

On Saturday 9th December the event will be open to the public from 10am – 12.30pm. Please join me during this time to celebrate the launch of Microbes! You will be able to purchase a copy at the library (cash only please!), and I’ll be happy to sign or doodle your copy too! Otherwise, you can order Microbes from Waterstones or from Amazon, or my publisher, Thunderstone Books.

I’ve also set-up a Facebook event where you can find information about the event and updates here.

I hope to see you on Saturday 9th December!
Have a super duper weekend!

Amy

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Posted in Microbes

Bacteria From My Bellybutton & More

Hello all!

Today I bring you a bacteria focused experiment that I conducted at home, and you can too! This activity demonstrates the importance of personal hygiene and good cleanliness!

I bought a bacteria growing kit from Kitchen Chemistry on Ebay and you can find more about conducting such experiments from here and here.

The kit I purchased contains nutrient agar, petri dishes, and sterile inoculation loops. Following the instructions, I heated the nutrient agar and distributed the solution between petri dishes. I labelled the dishes and left the solution to set. To avoid contamination I used one inoculation loop per surface swabbed. I swabbed a variety of things, including my phone, my Snowy toy dog, and even my bellybutton. With each contaminated inoculation loop, I rubbed it lightly in a zigzag motion over the agar. Another thing to add is to be careful not to leave the lid off for too long, as the dish might get contaminated by airborne particles.

Next, I sealed the lids with tape, popped them in a cardboard box and left them in a warm place to encourage them to grow.

In only a few days, I noticed some major changes to a couple of the petri dishes!

Bacteria Dishes

bellybutton topside.jpg

Bellybutton underside.jpg

LOOK AT THE BELLYBUTTON PETRI DISH!!! I’m amazed and aghast at the same time! The same goes for my phone too!

phone topside.jpg

phone underside.jpg

Now let me clarify that I am a CLEAN person. I shower daily, always wash my hands, etc. But I never thought to clean my bellybutton! I did read in one study, that scientists swabbed sixty belly buttons and identified one thousand four hundred and fifty-eight new species of bacteria! One volunteer’s belly button held bacteria that had only been found in soil from Japan, where the volunteer had never been!

It’s safe to say that I have since paid special attention to cleaning my bellybutton and my mobile phone.

As for the other petri dishes there either has been tiny changes or no noticeable changes. I will continue to grow the bacteria and share with you the future findings!

There are harmful bacteria out there that can make us ill, so it is important to practice good hygiene, cook food thoroughly, and overall maintain a clean environment. However, there are also friendly and useful bacteria that perform important functions in our bodies and in the world. For example, there are bacteria in our large intestines that break down food our bodies can’t digest, allowing our intestines to absorb the nutrients from our food. Furthermore, we use bacteria to turn milk into a variety of dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt.

I hope you enjoyed this post on growing bacteria. Make sure to subscribe to this blog to get future updates! Furthermore, you can pre-order a copy of Microbes at Waterstones, Amazon or through my publishers, Thunderstone Books.

Until next time!
Amy

 

 

Posted in Microbes

You can pre-order Microbes!

For all you eager beavers, you can pre-order Microbes! It’s available to purchase from Waterstones, Amazon, and my publisher Thunderstone Books. The book will be released December 1st.

This book would make a super duper Christmas present for children 8+ or for any science-lover! If you wish to find out more about Microbes, please see below a review from the blog “The Picture Book Review“.

microbes front cover_preview

Microbes is a super fun and fantastically illustrated picture book that gives you tons of information about the crazy and amazing world of microbes!

The artist and author, Amy Gallagher, makes learning about the world of microscopic organisms interesting, funny, engaging, and memorable.

In this nonfiction picture book, information about six different types of microbes: bacteria, viruses, fungi, algae, archaea, and protozoa, is presented in an enthusiastic and playful fashion. She makes these microbes down right adorable.

What microbes are and how they function goes in-depth enough in some areas for middle and high school students, giving me flashbacks to AP Biology, but is presented with such humor and charm that my young sons 1) sits through multiple readings 2) talk to people in line at the grocery store about microbes now and 3) will randomly ask me questions from this book. It’s a fantastic book to read as cold and respiratory illness season is upon us, giving us tools to explain and understand what is going on inside our bodies as we try to prevent, fight off, and recover from illnesses.

Gallagher begins by doing an impressive job of explaining that microbes are everywhere, inside our bodies, on the food we eat, the air we breathe, on the things we touch, without ever giving that sinking, creeping feeling that can sometimes come with learning this information. It’s always friendly and upbeat. She shows us how important microbes are and makes us aware of how much we owe them. The book then addresses the six types of microbes beginning with the ones we have the most information about (bacteria and viruses) to the ones we have the least information about (archaea and protozoa).

Sample page 5_preview

In bacteria, Gallagher breaks down the five groups according to their shape (which I distinctly remember being on a high school test once) giving them adorable faces and including effortlessly memorable, easier was to remember them. With younger children, you’ll want to stop at times and give more explanation to certain terms and ideas that are mentioned in this book, but middle grade children will most likely will have at least been introduced to concepts such as nucleus, organelles, membranes, and DNA. Fun and relatable stories are interspersed between factual information giving it a good balance in tone and information. Antibiotic resistance and binary fission are excellently introduced and explained.

In viruses, we learn why hand washing is so important, why we don’t use antibiotics for viral infections, and that vaccines help our bodies build immunity to viruses. You’ll actually feel sympathy for a host cell as you read about how viruses invade, replicate, and then bud from it. You’ll root for and learn about what makes up your immune system as you watch it battle virons. My kids thought this was so awesome. “We have warriors in our body! Epic Cool!” – to quote the three-year old.

Sample page 2_preview

In fungi, we’re introduced to the wide variety of organisms that are included in this category from mushrooms to yeast to mold. This section highlights that fungi can range from single-celled organisms to multicellular clusters, and that we can mainly find them in dirt and plants.  We learn how some of them travel and disperse and that yeast have a couple different ways to reproduce. We’re shown how common fungi is in our daily life from bread to beer to mushrooms.

Sample page 3_preview

 

Sample page 4_preview

In algae, the topic of where we can find algae and its crucial role in producing the vast majority of air we breathe is introduced. Gallagher explains what chlorophyll is, where algae gets is colors, the basics of how algae forms together to make more complex structures, and even how we use the outer cell walls of microscopic algae in our daily life. You’ll never quite look at your toothpaste the same again.

In archaea, we learn how scientists used to call them “weird bacteria,” how they help keep our clothes clean, their three main types and sub-types, the types of environments that they can exist in that other organisms cannot, and how we’ve recently learned that they are basically everywhere.

In protozoa, we find out that they’re mainly here to eat other microbes. We learn about the sizes, structures, and movement methods of ciliates, flagellates, and protozoa in an accessible and engaging way.

Sample page 1_preview

22 terms are color coded and clearly defined in the glossary at the end. The final pages includes a visual recap of the six different types of microbes that is especially excellent for those who use images for memory hooks.

Microbes is an impressive general overview about the world of microscopic organisms. The illustrations are charming, adeptly utilize humor, and appeal to a wide variety of ages. It also excellently highlights important concepts of microbes. The information is organized, interesting, relevant and generates an enthusiastic energy to ask more questions and learn more. It’s a win!

 

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Many thanks to The Picture Book Review for their lovely review of Microbes!

Posted in Microbes

Colouring Pages!

I’ve been creating more colouring pages for the book launch! I’ll be making a limited supply of fun activity packs that can be purchased with Microbes at the book launch. The packs will contain science-themed activity sheets and colouring pages. More information on the book launch will come soon! Here are a couple of example colouring pages for now!

colouring bacteria shapes.jpg

colouring yeast.jpg

 

Posted in Microbes

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

Posted in Microbes

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! 🙂