American Gut

American Gut

Most of us have heard at some point or another that we have entire ecosystems of microbes living in our gut. Mostly of these microbes are happy symbionts that help us digest our food, but some can occasionally becoming pathogenic and cause health problems. Have you ever wondered what your gut microbial community looks like? Now you can find out! The Earth Microbiome Project (, founded several years ago with the ambitious goal of “sequencing the microbiome of planet earth”, (or, in other words, characterizing basically all of the genetic diversity that exists on our planet), has begun a smaller, more targeted project with the aim of characterizing the gut communities of human populations.

Some of the key science questions driving this project : to what extent do gut microbial communities vary among people? At what scales can we discern patterns in microbial community composition? Are similar microbial communities found among people from similar geographic regions, with shared genetic history, or with a shared diet? And, perhaps more interestingly to most of us, to what extent does the composition of our gut community impact our own health? Once we have enough data to start answering some of these basic questions, perhaps we can even start making predictions about what sorts of lifestyles will lead to what sorts of gut flora, and how these communities, in turn, will impact our overall health.

It costs just $100 to join and get your microbiome sequenced. And the information could change your life!

A draft of the national climate report has been released for review by the American people. Please take a moment to look it over. It’s a lengthy report, but the message is clear from the opening letter: our climate is warming, faster than we anticipated even three years ago. We have many lines of evidence pointing to this conclusion. To name a few, hotter summers with periods of extreme heat lasting longer than any living American has ever experienced. More frequent, extreme weather events, such as superstorm Sandy that devastated coastal regions of the northeast this past year. Global sea level has risen approximately 8 inches since the end of the 19th century, and is projected to rise another 1-4 feet by the end of this one. The Greenland ice sheet is melting more rapidly than scientists have anticipated, and the north pole is expected to be completely ice free in the summer by mid-century. Massive die-offs of coral reefs are being observed, species distributions are shifting in time and space.

In deciding whether to try to massively reduce our carbon emissions and prevent some of the most dramatic consequences of climate change from being born out, or implementing a comprehensive global adaptation strategy, I believe that humanity faces its single greatest challenge yet as a species. The decisions we make now and in the coming decades will alter the environment we experience and the fundamental way our planet functions for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years to come.