Microbial Ecology

Ecology is the scientific discipline focused on the study of ecological systems and the living and non-living processes that support them.


Microbial ecology is a sub-discipline of ecology focused on microorganisms (that is, such microbes as bacteria, viruses, some algae and protozoa, and prions), their life cycles, niches and habitats. Due to the substantial numbers of microorganisms on Earth, these small organisms exercise mind-boggling influences, effects and impacts on other organisms (including humankind) and on the ecological systems they inhabit


Microbial ecology is central to our understanding of human, plant and animal disease and well-being as well as the condition and functioning of all ecological systems.

  • Microbial life in undersea volcanoes Featured News Article Microbial life in undersea volcanoes Microbial life in undersea volcanoes

    Many of the lifeforms inhabiting the Earth live in sediments and rocks. The research reported here provides the first detailed data on methane-exhaling microbes that live deep in... More »

  • Atlantic hydrothermal vent life Featured News Article Atlantic hydrothermal vent life Atlantic hydrothermal vent life

    Explorers on NOAA expedition discover chemosynthetic shrimp, tubeworms together for first time at hydrothermal vent, also first live vent tubeworms seen in Atlantic waters... More »

  • Antimicrobial resistance to drugs Featured Article Antimicrobial resistance to drugs Antimicrobial resistance to drugs

    Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of microbes, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi, to grow in the presence of a chemical (drug) that would normally kill... More »

  • Climate Adaptation of Rice Featured Article Climate Adaptation of Rice Climate Adaptation of Rice

    Climate Adaptation of Rice Symbiogenics: A New Strategy for Reducing Climate Impacts on Plants Rice–which provides nearly half the daily calories for the... More »

  • Combating Hopping Pests Featured Article Combating Hopping Pests Combating Hopping Pests

    ?Main Image:  The Mormon cricket is a voracious feeder that wipes out acres of grasses and field crops in no time. When it’s young, though, it grows so fast that... More »

  • Marine microbes Featured Article Marine microbes Marine microbes

    The term 'Marine microbes' encompasses all microscopic organisms generally found in saltwater. Most micro-organisms are acellular and fall into the major categories of... More »

  • Arctic marine environments Featured Article Arctic marine environments Arctic marine environments

    This is Section 10.2.1 of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment Lead Author: Michael B. Usher; Contributing Authors:Terry V. Callaghan, Grant Gilchrist, Bill Heal, Glenn P.... More »

Recently Updated
Ecosystem services fact sheet Last Updated on 2014-07-09 17:01:53 This ecosystems services fact sheet is intended to provide an overview of the subject of ecosystem services, e.g. the economic consequences to humankind of benefits provided by the natural environment. This fact sheet was originally developed by the Ecological Society of America (ESA). Have you ever considered that the cereal you eat is brought to you each morning by the wind, or that the glass of clear, cold, clean water drawn from you faucet may have been purified for you by a wetland or perhaps the root system of an entire forest? Trees in your front yard work to trap dust, dirt, and harmful gases from the air you breathe. The bright fire of oak logs you light to keep warm on cold nights and the medicine you take to ease the pain of an ailment come to you from Nature’s warehouse of services. Natural ecosystems perform fundamental life-support services upon which human... More »
Composting tips Last Updated on 2014-06-29 18:07:28 Composting turns household wastes into valuable fertilizer and soil organic matter. All organic matter eventually decomposes. Composting speeds the process by providing an ideal environment for bacteria and other decomposing microorganisms. The final product, humus or compost, looks and feels like fertile garden soil. This dark, crumbly, earthy-smelling stuff works wonders on all kinds of soil and provides vital nutrients to help plants grow and look better. Decomposing organisms consist of bacteria, fungi, and larger organisms such as worms, sow bugs, nematodes, and numerous others. Decomposing organisms need four key elements to thrive: nitrogen, carbon, moisture, and oxygen. For best results, mix materials high in nitrogen (such as clover, fresh grass clippings, and livestock manure) and those high in carbon (such as dried leaves and twigs). If there is not a good supply of... More »
Marine microbes Last Updated on 2014-06-18 17:12:26 The term 'Marine microbes' encompasses all microscopic organisms generally found in saltwater. Most micro-organisms are acellular and fall into the major categories of viruses, prokaryotes ('bacteria'), and protists, groups which differ considerably in biological characteristics. While representatives of these groups are found in virtually everywhere in marine waters and they play nearly every ecological role imaginable, their most important function is that they form the base of the food chain in marine ecosystems. Well-known to us as disease-causing agents, viruses are deceivingly simple organisms, little more than some nucleic acid within a protein container. They are 'parasitic particles' most about 40 nanometers in size. Viruses attach themselves to a living cell and inject a bit of nucleic acid into the cell; the injected nucleic acid... More »
Arctic marine environments Last Updated on 2014-06-18 16:42:07 This is Section 10.2.1 of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment Lead Author: Michael B. Usher; Contributing Authors:Terry V. Callaghan, Grant Gilchrist, Bill Heal, Glenn P. Juday, Harald Loeng, Magdalena A. K. Muir, Pål Prestrud The arctic marine environment covers about 13 million km2, of which about 45% is a permanent ice cap that covers part of the Arctic Ocean. Seasonal sea ice forms during winter, and recedes during the short arctic summer, exposing large areas of open water. The marine environment is thus dominated by sea ice and by the dynamics of that ice and especially the location of the ice edge. The transition zone between the sea ice and the open water has intense algal growth in spring and summer, and it is the primary production by these phytoplankton that supports the arctic marine food webs. Only in exceptional cases can the energy that drives the marine food... More »
Common coral reef fishes of Martinique Last Updated on 2014-06-16 19:44:53 Martinique Martinique is an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, south of Dominica and north of Saint Lucia. It is one of the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles. Over 225 species of reef fishes have been identified during REEF Fish Surveys in Martinique. The following ranking is based on the results of 163 REEF Fish Surveys covering a bottom time of 161 hours and 12 minutes. (REEF Geographic Zone Report, May 30, 2009).  The species are ranked by the percentage of surveys in which a species was observed.  Abundance of fishes in REEF Fish Surveys are estimated using the following categories: 1- single =1 individual, 2-few = 2- 10 individuals, 3-many = 11-100 individuals, and 4-abundant > 100 individuals.    The mean numeric abundance (ranging from 1 - 4) was calculated for each species..  The mean abundance category is... More »