The main concern about working with microbiology at home is the possibility that you will accidentally isolate a pathogen (disease causing) organism. The bacteria used in food processing and fermentation are interesting and safe because you normally eat them. However, these projects are not totally safe because you could isolate a contaminating organism. The best insurance against such an accident is to use suitable medium and isolating conditions, and select the majority organism, not a strange unusual colony. Therefore, you need to read about bacteria before you isolate them so that you are armed with much knowledge. For that reason, this website will have pages describing many safe common bacteria and lists and info about those that cause disease. It will take months or years to complete those pages. Meanwhile, read any bacteriology books you can find.
B120 - Milk Fermentations and projects and lactic acid bacteria
B122 - Isolating Brevibacterium linens from Limburger Cheese; first experiment for kids.
B.htm - Main index page for Bacteria
Projects - Always begin here.
I am revising the bacteria pages; you should always begin with page b.htm
B100 - Food Microbiology Index - Safe bacteria that you eat everyday
Lots of safe home food bacteria experiments coming in Jan - Feb.
New pages - New or greatly revised and Uploaded since 1998 Jan 22
B122 - Isolation of Brevibacterium linens from Limburger Cheese
B203 - Isolation of Vibrio (Photobacterium) phosphoreum from fresh sea fish - glows in dark
1998 Jan 24. A dozen students have written this month seeking informatin for a bacteria projects. Most had exhausted the books available in their school and local libraries. While I have written them e-messages to assist with their projects, I am also beginning many new pages at this site to answer the questions they had.
I am spending about 30 hours per week starting new pages and adding to old ones. Due to all the changes, b.htm is the best place to look for new pages. I am doing a rewrite of each page at least once per week. At the bottom of each page is a Revision date and Draft number. When I get to Draft 4, a page is getting pretty well done.
If a page is not clear, or the method is too difficult for you or you don't have the supplies and equipment, write me. I will try to make the page more useful to you.
Suggested Bacteria Projects (Someday, I will expand each of these to a full web page):
Revised 1998 Jan 23 - Draft 1
Revised 1997 MAR 13 (incomplete) Part of our home microbiology at home series.
Microbiology at Home Series
This page covers typical uses of bacteria culture in the kitchen via selective media: bread making, dairy products, pickles. Microbiologists usually work with pure cultures containing a single strain of the microbe they want. However, before 1850, pure culture methods were unknown. To obtain the desired microflora in a food process, cooks and food processors used conditions which were known to produce the desired result. I recall listening to my mother, during the 1940s, discuss with her friends the problems she was having keeping the sourdough "starter" alive and able to produce bread of the desired flavor and texture. There was folklore that boiling peach leaves affected by "peach leaf curl" would rejuvenate sourdough starter. Ladies who had cool earthen cellars often were more successful at keeping the starter alive and they gave regular portions to their neighbors. Maintaining a semipure culture by suitable conditions and food supply is called selective enrichment. In the next page of this series, we will again work with food processing microbes, but we will learn pure culture methods. How I wish I had some of my mother's sourdough starter for such studies.
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This is a short course to help kids and adults begin some interesting experiments at home. Microbiology is the study of microscopic organisms including, algae, protozoa, fungi, yeasts, viruses, and bacteria. This series begins with yeasts and bacteria which are already used in food in most homes. Therefore, these experiments should be safe. There is nothing to buy except normal foods for the first two pages. Indiana Biolab offers some inexpensive kits which make nice gifts to the student having a proven interest in microbiology. A middle school or high school student can do some very facinating things 0in microbiology and genetics at home. Pages at this site will take to the research level if you have the interest.
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