The world lost one of its premier defenders of biodiversity and a pioneering ecologist and evolutionary biologist when E. O. Wilson died on December 26, 2021, at the age of 92. We start the year honoring the memory of this remarkable scientist and communicator. His many scientific contributions, at times awe-inspiring and at times controversial, left an impact that will be felt for many decades to come. In my opinion, it was his gift for delivering a clear narrative of science in an easily accessible form that will be his most lasting legacy. The passion he felt for his subject matter was always evident in his writings, from his vivid descriptions of a colony of ants to his call for saving the Earth's biodiversity. For microbiologists, the closing paragraph from his 1994 autobiography Naturalist, will forever remain inspirational:
"If I could do it all over again, and relive my vision in the twenty-first century, I would be a microbial ecologist. Ten billion bacteria live in a gram of ordinary soil, a mere pinch held between thumb and forefinger. They represent thousands of species, almost none of which are known to science. Into that world I would go with the aid of modern microscopy and molecular analysis. I would cut my way through clonal forests sprawled across grains of sand, travel in an imagined submarine through drops of water proportionately the size of lakes, and track predators and prey in order to discover new life ways and alien food webs."