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Conference Ecology of Soil Microorganisms – Helsinki

We attended the third conference on the Ecology of Soil Microorganisms recently held in Helsinki (Finland) (16-21 June 2018). This interesting conference addresses questions related to individual microbes, microbial communities and microbial networks. We presented the following two communications: “Rhizoremediation of mixed contaminated soil using Brassica napus and a bacterial consortium” and “Antibiotic resistant genes in agricultural soil amended with sewage sludge”.

Members of the Scientific Committee of the VIII Iberian Congress of Soil Sciences

Lur Epelde and Carlos Garbisu from our group participated as members of the Scientific Committee in the organization of the VIII Iberian Congress of Soil Sciences (CICS 2018) that was held last June (20-22 June 2018) in Donostia-San Sebastian (Spain). The congress was focused on “Soil as Sustainable Resource for Bioeconomy”. Bioeconomy is defined as the sustainable production of biomass to increase its use in different economic and social sectors. One of its objectives is to reduce the effects of climate change as well as the use of fossil raw materials. Bioeconomy seeks to produce more with less; seeks to produce without harming the environment; seeks to produce using the territory intelligently; and seeks to produce to achieve the welfare of society. A healthy soil is certainly essential for the sustainable production of biomass and, hence, for the development of bioeconomy. We participated in the following communications: “¿Qué factores afectan a la diversidad de organismos edáficos en entornos urbanos?”, “Eficacia e impacto del uso de nanopartículas de hierro cero valente en la remediación de suelos contaminados con lindano y Zn”, “Diseminación de genes de resistencia a antibióticos como consecuencia de la aplicación de lodos de depuradora en suelos agrícolas”, “Efectos a largo plazo de la estabilización química en suelo minero contaminado con cobre”,  “BIONANO 2.0. Diseño y construcción de una nanobiopila a escala piloto para la descontaminación de suelos mediante la aplicación conjunta de nanorremediación y biorremediación”, “Interacción entre Populus x canadensis y/o en co-cultivo con Medicago sativa durante la revegetación de suelos contaminados con hidrocarburos y benzopireno”, “Rumex acetosa L.: ¿Es esta pseudometalofita una caja tesoro para la fitorremediación de suelos contaminados con Zn, Cd y Pb?”, “Estrategias de fitogestión para aumentar la biodiversidad vegetal y microbiana en suelos contaminados” and “Degradación diferencial entre combustibles de origen fósil y biológico (biodiésel) en suelos con contaminación mixta”.

New collaborations in the field of ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE IN THE ENVIRONMENT

Recently, we have reached an agreement, with eight other research groups working in the Basque Country, to collaborate in the field of antibiotic resistance in the environment. Our main contribution to this collaboration will be to investigate the effect of organic products and wastes of animal (manure, slurry) and urban (sewage sludge) origin on the dissemination of antibiotic resistance in non-clinical environments. These organic amendments, frequently used in agriculture, are a source of antibiotic resistance bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs), as well as of mobile genetic elements (MGEs) involved in horizontal gen transfer. Here it follows the list of the eight new collaborators in this interesting topic: (1) Dr. Itziar Alkorta´s team from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology-University of the Basque Country, and BIOFISIKA Institute; (2) Dr. Nestor Etxebarria´s team from the Department of Analytical Chemistry-University of the Basque Country; (3) Dr. Manu Soto´s team from the Department of Zoology and Cell Biology-University of the Basque Country, and Plentzia Marine Institute; (4) Dr. Estilita Ruiz´s team from the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering-University of the Basque Country; (5) Dr. Lucía Gallego´s team from the Department of Immunology, Microbiology and Parasitology-University of the Basque Country; (6) Dr. Usue Pérez´s team from the Department of Plant Biology and Ecology-University of the Basque Country; (7) Dr. Luis Javier R. Barrón´s team from the Department of Pharmacy and Food Sciences-University of the Basque Country; and (8) Dr. Marijose Sanz´s team from the Basque Centre for Climate Change. Certainly, great partners!!

MudRobots moved by electroactive bacteria

Have you ever heard about bioelectrogenesis? Electroactive bacteria (from the genus Geobacter or Shewanella, for example) can transfer electrons to electroconductive materials as a new form of respiration where electricity can be harvested or, additionally, accept electrons from those materials so they can be fed using an electrical current as a source of energy.

The artist Paul Granjon is using this process that carry out bacteria from river sediments to create a set of on-board microbial fuel cells and move several small mobile robots inspired from the dung beetle. According to him, the contrast between the primal nature of mud and the highly technological electronics explores possibilities of symbiosis and highlights the sophistication of the microbes compared to the robot.

We had the opportunity to have a small collaboration in this project, helping to identify the electroactive bacteria present in the river sediments using a metabarcoding approach. It is always interesting to take part in such interdisciplinary projects!!

Do not lose the chance to visit the installation, which is part of the PROTOTIPOAK exhibition, until the 16th of September, in Azkuna Zentroa. There are many other instalations (dried plants which move in response to the movement of the wind in Minnesota, a robot that is creating a photorealistic art piece with one single continuous line, etc.) and related activities (such as the artistic residence of Vanessa Lorenzo about the exploration of the microbial inhabitants in the city).

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Presentation of results in NATURADAPT

La semana pasada se realizaron dos presentaciones de los resultados obtenidos en el proyecto NaturAdapt. El primero de ellos fue en el marco de la Comisión de Adaptación al Cambio Climático del Ayuntamiento de Donostia/San Sebastián.

El segundo fue un taller de contraste y validación llevado a cabo en el Departamento de Agricultura del Gobierno de Navarra (Pamplona). Se presentó la metodología utilizada para la cuantificación de las cuatro variables ambientales objeto de estudio en NaturAdapt (i.e., captura de carbono, biodiversidad, confort térmico e inundabilidad). Como ejemplo, se mostraron los resultados obtenidos en el caso de estudio del área de Txomin Enea, en Donostia-San Sebastián. Finalmente, se mostró un borrador de la guía metodológica para la evaluación de la efectividad y el diseño de Soluciones Naturales como medidas de mitigación y adaptación al cambio climático.

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Pint of Science 2018

Lur Epelde had the great pleasure of taking part in the last edition of Pint of Science in Bilbao. Pint of Science is an annual international science festival that takes place every May and brings researchers to local bars to present their scientific discoveries.  Iñigo Azua from the university of the Basque Country and Lur talked about the important ecological functions that carry out microorganisms in both oceans and soils, and also for the production of beer, among many other products! According to Urko, a 10 year old boy who attended the talk, the strategy of the microbial communities is clear: “Climate change is a strategy of microbes, they want us to run out of trees and oxygen and fill up everything with garbage to conquer the world”… in the meantime, long life to initiatives like Pint of Science!!

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Soil Health Cards in the Citizen Science Program of Vitoria-Gasteiz

We are very happy to take part in the Citizen Science Program of the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz with a simplified version of our Soil Health Cards. This program has previous groups dedicated to the study and conservation of orchids, butterflies or birds, for example. From now on, any interested person will be able to use the kits available in Ataria to measure some basic parameters and obtain information about the quality of their soils and agroecosystems. By the way, thanks to all the results obtained, we will be able to have a temporal diagnostic of the conservation status of soils in Vitoria-Gasteiz. Thank you CEA and Ataria for including us in this new adventure!

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Soil and climate change

In collaboration with IHOBE (Basque Environmental Agency) and BC3 (Basque Centre for Climate Change, Basque Country, Spain), we are preparing a document on the interaction between the soil ecosystem and climate change, where we discuss the impact of land management practices currently being used in the rural and urban Basque territory on soil functioning and on the mitigation and adaptation to climate change. The document will be part of the Basque Strategy for Soil Protection.