Welcome to ON(line)SC's Virtual Learning!


Good morning Naturalists! 


Today's FBI focus goes beyond what we can easily notice with our everyday vision- Bacteria!  A lot of times, when we think of bacteria, we think of disease.  While it's true that many diseases are caused by bacteria, that doesn't mean that they are all (or even mostly) harmful.  Most of the time, these microscopic marvels are working overtime to keep the biosphere moving the way it's supposed to.

Here, we can see fungus breaking down this potato.  But there is more than fungus at work here!


Let's start off by using our senses to explore bacteria in a safe way!  Here are some ways you can explore! 

  • Smell: Go outside or open a window after a rainstorm, sniff a handful of fallen leaves, go to a local body of water like a lake or a creek.

  • Taste: Sample a favorite cheese, olives, pickles, yogurt, vinegar, or kombucha.  All of these food products are produced with bacteria.

  • Touch: Wear something made from linen or leather.  Bacteria is used when these fabrics are being created

  • Hear: Flatulence is caused by bacteria producing gasses as they break down food inside our body, a natural and healthy process!  So let one rip!

  • See: Look at pictures of hot springs, such as those at Yellowstone National Park.  These beautiful, rainbow-colored pools are caused by different types of bacteria growing within the harsh conditions!  Or, just make sure you look at your cheese closely before you eat it!


So when you're chomping down on that cheeseburger, make sure you're thanking the bacteria that made it possible! 


Bacteria helps us out a lot out in nature as well!  In fact, bacteria are often the first decomposers to appear after remains are left behind, especially in damp environments.  When a single bacterium finds a food source, it is able to multiply very quickly, breaking down some of the more complex tissues into simpler, smaller pieces. This allows other decomposers an easier meal, and who doesn't like that? 


Even beneath our feet, bacteria are working to make our world a better place.  If you've ever eaten beans, enjoyed the beauty of the redbud trees in spring, or worn a sweet-pea perfume, you've appreciated plants that have an amazing symbiotic relationship with bacteria.  These plants, and others that are closely related (“legumes”) work closely with a group of bacteria in the soil to “fix” nitrogen in the atmosphere, changing it from a form that is un-usable by most living things into a form that can be used.  Without constant sources of this usable nitrate, plants struggle to grow.  If you live near an area that is heavily-farmed (especially for products such as corn), see if you can spot farmers switching out their normal crops for soybeans every few years to gain this free fertilizer!

Without bacteria, I could not enjoy my lunch of pickles, kombucha, and a tortilla covered in cheese, balsamic vinegar, and redbud blossoms.  Thanks bacteria!


A fascinating look at what happens when bacteria can't get to a food source occurs in places that are too dry, cold, or acidic for bacteria to survive well...mummification!  This isn't something that we often see here in the Ozarks, but in places with environmental extremes, mummification can happen naturally.  To learn more about mummies, take out a book (or ebook!) from a local library or take a virtual tour of a museum. 


Speaking of food, let's take a look at our weekly food for thought video! 

Reminder to everyone: Tomorrow, we will be hosting our live Find-Out Friday from 10:00-11:00AM CST!  Send us your questions, comments, or creative works from this week or about nature in general to SocialMedia@onsc.us or on Facebook!  Your creations might be shared on our page!


In the next few weeks, be on the lookout as well for our ONSC store bundles.  We are creating bundles that will allow you to explore your nature, whether as a scientist, artist, hobbyist, or all of the above! 

If you enjoyed watching today's lessons and would like to purchase one of our ONSC Virtual Merchandise Packages, which includes an ONSC Program T-shirt and field journal, click to go to our Online Store


During this time, we only have limited amount of merchandise available for purchase. 


Merchandise orders will ship First Class USPS every two weeks on the following dates:

April 16, April 30, May 14 & May 28


The Ozark Natural Science Center is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) residential field science education center located in Northwest Arkansas.

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1905 Madison 1305
Huntsville, AR  72740