Pharmaceuticals, Personal Care Products, and….you?

Take a moment and think about how you might be creating waste products. Do you think of food scraps, un-recycled plastic, or exhaust from your car? True, those are valid sources of human-made waste. But have you ever considered the caffeine from your coffee, the ibuprofen you use for aches and pains, or the preservatives in lotion and makeup as a form of potentially harmful waste? These chemical contaminants often go unnoticed, washed down sinks or discarded in trash. However, there is growing evidence that chemicals from Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (abbreviated as PPCPs) can create harmful impacts on our environment (Onesios, Yu, & Bouwer 2008).

A tipped jar surrounded by colorful pills and caplets.
Figure 1. Pharmaceuticals and other products we use every day are ending up in the soil and water.

Keep reading →

Presence of microbes on utensils.

Layman’s Terms:

Microscopic organisms are everywhere, even in places where you would think they wouldn’t be, such as on clean clothes, clean kitchen counters or even washed utensils. Do you remember those advertisements for disinfectants that claim they can kill 99.9% of bacteria? You might think that 0.1% are left there even after using these antibacterial disinfectants. In Ontario, they have a standard that on a cleaned utensil there should not be more than 100 bacterial cells! Imagine what happens to utensils cleaned in dishwashers without such effective disinfectants! A study was done by scientists in Ontario, Canada on the dishwashers which did not handle a lot of utensils at an instance, such as those in residential care homes. Along with disinfectants, high temperature is also needed to kill microorganisms which is a strategy that dishwashers actually use. But in establishments that have relatively few utensils, household dishwashers are sometimes used instead of commercial dishwashers. The household dishwashers cannot always achieve such high temperatures which means that they need to use sanitizers to treat utensils. The sanitizer has to be used at a set time and concentration but normal dishwashers do not have this function. The study found that 83% of these dishwashers actually worked within the prescribed limits but still there are 17%, that is, more than 1 out of 6 instances that your utensils actually contain a lot of microbes. So the next time you take the utensils out from the dishwasher, think again if they are clean or not. Also, if you live in residential care facilities or places that use common dishwashers then you might ask that they install a commercial sized dishwasher instead of domestic dishwasher.

Technical Explanation:

The researchers aimed to study cleaning ability of domestic dishwashers employed in residential care homes. The researchers focused on these places because they know that dishwashers do not work that well if there are fewer utensils cleaned at a time. This happens due to low temperature that water reaches when cleaning occurs. A temperature of 82oC for 10 seconds or chemical sanitization at 24oC is required to properly sanitize the utensils. For samples, they chose 4 establishments with different numbers of dishwashing units to a total of 103 units. Four different types of utensils were selected for the study and were swabbed after one full cycle was over. Standard operating procedures laid out by United States Public Health Service’s (USPHS) were followed. Of the 103 domestic dishwashers evaluated, 85 (83%) yielded results that fell within the prescribed limit of no more than 100 bacterial colonies per utensil as determined by heterotrophic plate count (HPC). Dishwashers that contained utensils classified as somewhat soiled or very soiled before washing were more likely to fail (P < 0.05) than those that were classified as very clean or somewhat clean before washing when all other characteristics and operating parameters and the number of plastic items were controlled for. With increasing maximum rinse temperature, dishwashers were less likely to fail (P < 0.05) while the same characteristics were controlled for. Also, dishwashers were more likely to fail when chlorinated detergents were used (P < 0.05). So even after using a dishwasher on dirty utensils, there is a 16% chance that it will not be as clean as the required standards and we have to use sanitizer in the dishwasher to get the desired results.


Plastics in the North Atlantic garbage patch: a boat-microbe for hitchhikers and plastic degraders – REPOST!


down voteup vote (No Ratings Yet)

Debroas, D., Mone, A. and Ter Halle, A., 2017. Plastics in the North Atlantic garbage patch: a boat-microbe for hitchhikers and plastic degraders.  Science of the Total Environment,  599, pp.1222-1232.


Plastic is a broad name given to different polymers with high molecular weight that impact wildlife. Their fragmentation leads to a continuum of debris sizes (meso  to microplastics) entrapped in gyres and colonized by microorganisms. In the present work, the structure of eukaryotes, bacteria and Archaea was studied by a metabarcoding approach, and statistical analysis associated with network building was used to define a core microbiome at the plastic surface. Most of the bacteria significantly associated with the plastic waste originated from non-marine ecosystems, and numerous species can be considered as hitchhikers, whereas others act as keystone species (e.g., Rhodobacterales, Rhizobiales, Streptomycetales and Cyanobacteria) in the biofilm. The chemical analysis provides evidence for a specific colonization of the polymers. Alphaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria significantly dominated mesoplastics consisting of poly(ethylene terephthalate) and polystyrene. Polyethylene was also dominated by these bacterial classes and Actinobacteria. Microplastics were made of polyethylene but differed in their crystallinity, and the majorities were colonized by Betaproteobacteria. Our study indicated that the bacteria inhabiting plastics harboured distinct metabolisms from those present in the surrounding water. For instance, the metabolic pathway involved in xenobiotic degradation was overrepresented on the plastic surface.


I chose this paper because the accumulation of plastic in the ocean is a huge problem, and we generally think of plastics as very challenging to degrade.

A1 Intro Post

Hi everyone! My name is Taylor, I’m currently majoring in biological science with a concentration in cellular and molecular, with minors in math and marine science. I’m taking this class for a couple reasons–one being that I really enjoyed taking microbiology last year, and the other being that I’m still not really sure what I’m doing after college so I’m trying to explore as many different areas of science as possible!


Microbe haiku:

Supporting so much

microbes quietly exist,

smaller than a speck.

Assignment A1: Introduction

My name is Patrick Knavel, and I love microbes (And cats)! I have the most perfect, aggressive cat in the world. His name is Sir Pounce-A-Lot, and while he bats at anyone who tries to pet him, he screams at me when I get home until I pick him up and kiss his belly.

I work for the National Park Service in three of Alaska’s National parks: Yukon-Charley national park, Denali National park and Preserve, and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve – the largest National park in the US! In these parks, I help monitor Peregrine Falcon and small mammal populations, as well as conduct water quality surveys. I’m very excited to learn more about microbes in relation to wildlife populations and their health!

I thought about posting a picture of my cat, but there are too many good ones and I couldn’t decide on a single one, so here’s a picture of me at the top of Mt. Kinabalu in Borneo in November of 2014! My sister and I climbed the mountain together with a mountain guide, and barely survived the odyssey.

A microbial haiku to commemorate our survival of the mountain:


On top Mt. Kinabalu

I thought I would die

Assignment A1: Intro Posts

My name is Tonya Bear. I’ve been slowly working towards my graduate degree in Environmental Engineering with a specialty in water and wastewater. By “slowly” I mean that I’m in my 4th (or 5th?) year of actively pursuing a master’s degree. Since I work full-time and also have a three-year old son (took a semester off when he was born), I only have time to take one class a semester. My plan is to graduate this Fall (just need to finish my project!). I received my bachelors degree from UAF in Geological Engineering and I’m currently licensed as a Professional Civil Engineer.

I unfortunately missed the first day of class so I hope my Haiku meets the intent:

Flush the toilet down
Anaerobic septic tank
Anoxic leach field

If you didn’t guess, my project (and career) focus is onsite wastewater disposal systems (i.e. septic systems).

Thanks for reading!

Hello everyone. I am Ankur Sachan and I am from India. I am currently pursuing M.S. degree in Mining Engineering. My research topic is biodegradation of Alaskan coal to extract rare earth elements. My hobbies include cooking Indian food, driving and travelling (I admit I like flights!!)   to new places.


I realized on flight

I ran tests for a month

Now, the microbes are dying.

This is a beach in Andaman and Nicobar islands in India where I went this winter break. This beach is famous for bioluminescent bacteria and it glows in night when water is disturbed. I do not have the photograph of night, but trust me it is awesome when you look at it in person!!!


Assignment 1: Introduction

Hey everyone!

My name is Karen and I am majoring in biology with a concentration in physiology. I am currently a CNA working in an assisted living home and planning on going to grad school somewhere warm (aka not Alaska) to become a PA. I have been looking forward to this class since I first heard of it, especially the writing intensive part! I have worked in environmental education in the past and I have run several blogs. I have a great interest in making scientific concepts more understandable to the general public while not losing any important content or ideas, and I think that combining traditional scientific writing with more creative ideas is a great way to achieve that.


Here is my haiku from class:


Energy cycles through all

Life into new life


Starvation Gulch 2016

Hello Class!

I’m Mark Velasco, a General Biology major, with interests in cell and molecular. Additionally, I’m both a mathematics and music minor.Currently, I am doing undergraduate research in Podlutsky lab studying DNA repair and hibernation using cultured Arctic Ground Squirrels cells.  My main non-biology interests is playing percussion, specifically with Ensemble 64.8 at UAF. This semester we plan on playing Threads by Paul Lanskey and some TBD Toru Takemitsu pieces arranged by Robin Engelman.

For the course, i’m excited to see if the interdisciplinary setup of the class brings us to look into more technical/ industrial uses of microbes in our environment, knowing that we have engineers in the class.


The unseen shapers,

Helpful sometimes destructive,

important for life

Hello Everyone!

Hey! My name is Connor Ito, I’m a general biology major (though my primary interests are physiology and wildlife). I have also pursued a minor in Art, mainly in two-dimensional media. I’m an undergraduate student who has dabbled in a little bit of everything that has interested me here at UAF, from theater and film to labwork and independent research.

I love the integration of linear and creative thinking employed in Dr. Leigh’s classes, and hoped to see more in this class! Looking forward to spending the upcoming semester with you all!


Glass of the ice lake-

Frozen within, breaths of fire

Secret survivors.

I have no recent pictures on my new laptop, so this will have to do!