Moselio Schaechter

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December 05, 2011

Why Blog?

by Merry


Euplotidium. Credit: Giovanna Rosati.

After five years, you’d think I’d have an answer to that question, a coherent and satisfying answer that I could share. Well, I dug around inside for a bit and this is what I came up with.

Picture a Rip van Winkle with a recent Ph.D. in biology who fell asleep late in 1970 and remained comatose until the 21st century was well underway, then woke up and looked around to see what was new in biology. That sums up several decades of my life, scientifically speaking. When I woke up I was still working as a tech writer preparing computer software user’s manuals. I purchased a few used textbooks—microbiology, cell biology, virology, genetics. They’re very cheap if you don’t need the latest edition, and I didn’t. I started reading. What I found was truly stunning. A few years later I finally gained access to e-journals online—heaven indeed. And when I realized that, despite my ignorance, people would actually pay me to edit research papers, grant proposals, and other microbiology-related materials, it was bye-bye software manuals.

The now known microbial world is far more amazing than I ever imagined. I love exploring it. Blogging provides a structure for that exploration. Writing a post requires, at least for one like me so lacking in background, reading a lot of papers and covering much new terrain. Instead of just wandering around in a daze, this reading now has a specific goal—to find and assemble the pieces needed to tell a story. Eventually a post is written, giving me a sense of completion, and then it is on to the next post.

Why blog about viruses in particular, as is my habit? Don't they deserve it? These ‘simple’ entities are often disparaged as not being ‘alive,’ just as often denied a place in the Tree of Life, yet they possess more complexity than I can wrap my human mind around. They embody the evolutionary creativity that characterizes all life, and more of it than any other life form due to their numbers and rate of replication. They make the living world go round. Some people are filled with a sense of awe when they stand amongst the giants in an old-growth redwood forest, some when they muse about the viruses.

Fortunately I enjoy not only writing, but also editing. Both Elio and I spend much time editing each others posts as well as everything that comes in from our associate bloggers and over-the-transom. Give us a page, any page, and we can’t help but set to editing. Except for our brief winter and summer vacations, the pace has been non-stop, a post every Monday and Thursday. It seems worth the effort, even without adding in the pleasure and the learning we derive. I found that blog posts are not as ephemeral as I had thought when this began. The majority of our visitors each day don’t come to read the latest article, but rather arrive looking for information on a particular topic. If you Google “euplotidium” as I did almost five years ago, you’ll find that STC is still one of the top hits, #3 for me just now.

There are many reasons why I am still blogging with Elio after all these years. A lot of them have to do with the sort of person he is. (I can’t say more about that here because he keeps editing it out.) But there is one aspect in particular that brought me to STC originally and that keeps me here. That concerns his raison d’être for the blog: to share my appreciation for the width and depth of the microbial activities on this planet. There are many microbiology blogs out there, some very excellent ones indeed. Many of them, however, have a decidedly anthropocentric point of view, focusing on the organisms that we can exploit or that exploit us. Others cover only the current hot news items, emphasizing the scary or the bizarre. In contrast, both Elio and I delight in the Small Things and in sharing their stories.

And as soon as I complete one story, more are clamoring for attention. It just goes on and on…



Merry, congratulations and happy 5th blogoversary! Honestly, you bring clarity and rigor to these posts, and I find them invaluable in the classroom. Many more, ma'am!

Hi, Merry. Thank you for writing this blog - for whatever reason. I think your writing is clear and concise, and brings the wonders of the microbiological world to a wider audience in a way that is easily understood and appreciated.

I have wanted to ask questions and comment on your blog before, and have not because I wanted to respect your statement in the sidebar: "We welcome other microbiologists to answer queries, comment on our musings, write guest blog entries, and provide feedback." I am not a microbiologist by training, but I have worked in another field of scientific research and am fascinated by the microbiology, molecular biology, and immunology.

My interest in biology has always been there, but it took coming down with (what has oddly become a controversial illness) Lyme disease to motivate me further in my own research and education in microbiology.

I have acquired a number of books (e.g. "Tick-Borne Diseases of Humans" by Goodman, Dennis, and Sonenshine; "The Biology of Disease Vectors" by Beaty and Marquardt; other textbooks on immunology and clinical microbiology). And I've had Horizon Press' leading book on Borrelia out on library loan. I've tried to learn what I can in hopes of understanding my condition and the symptoms which I have had since they have persisted.

I have a number of questions about Lyme disease and microbiology that I'd love to ask, and I admit my ignorance. But hey, ignorance is the first step to understanding - if one does not ask questions and seek the truth, then one will never have the answers.

So I've been doing my own research, and writing about what I've found and ask lots of questions. I hope to introduce other Lyme disease patients to research that is out there and relevant to their situation (and mine). I occasionally write opinion pieces that discuss whether or not Borrelia can persist, and which methods can be used to track pathogens in vivo. I like it when others who have studied spirochetes weigh in - let them correct my mistakes, but also confirm where I am spot-on.

Thank you for inspiring me and teaching me more about microbiology than I knew when I began doing my own survey and personal research in this field. I look forward to reading more of your entries for as long as you decide to write them.


Camp Other

Merry replies:

Thank you for sharing a bit of your story here and for publishing your own blog about Lyme disease and related conditions. I commend your efforts to learn and inform others about an important and currently controversial health issue. And yes, we surely do welcome your comments on STC,

wow!! very well said. I got into blogging a few months ago and I am soooo hooked for the very reasons you describe -- I love gathering information and putting it together in a clear and interesting way (hopefully getting better with time), as well as sharing my fascination with natural history. Great post and I look forward to reading more at STC.

Merry replies:
Thanks for your comment, Hollis! And thanks for calling my attention to your blog (In the Company of Plants and Rocks). I trust you don't mind that I include the link here.

Do keep blogging! Your posts reflect your interesting perspective and include some excellent photos of other good friends of mine -- rocks -- with their frozen stories.

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  • We welcome readers to answer queries and comment on our musings. To leave a comment or view others, remarks, click the "Comments" link in red following each blog post. We also occasionally publish guest blog posts from microbiologists, students, and others with a relevant story to share. If you are interested in authoring an article, please email us at elios179 at gmail dot com.

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