Despite the fact that bacteria are growing all around you, they can be surprisingly difficult to grow in a lab. This lesson will explore some of the basics involved in culturing bacteria for experimentation.
Mathematicians have to work with numbers. Marine biologists all get wet. When you decide to pursue a career as a microbiologist, eventually you have to work with microorganisms.
But, performing experiments on living things far too small to see can be difficult. It is not as easy as snorkeling to observe reef fish or putting white mice in cages. You have to plan and control every aspect of your new pet bacteria’s lives. At the same time, you have to diligently protect your specimens from being contaminated by all the rogue bacteria that are all around you, covering every surface, and colonizing your own body. In this lesson, we will hit on some of the basic aspects of growing bacteria in a lab.
One skill that every microbiologist has to master is how to properly grow bacteria without letting all those environmental bacteria contaminate your work.
But, let’s get a few vocab words out of the way first. Bacterial culturing is a process of growing bacteria. Oftentimes, if you are trying to identify a microbe causing a disease or investigating the populations in an environmental sample, you begin with a mixed culture. A mixed culture is a bacterial culture made up of more than one species of bacteria. You could have as few as two or as many as hundreds of species. It is your job to take this mixed culture and isolate the one species of interest.
Notice above how many of the colonies look different? These are all different species. What you want is to make that mixed culture into a pure culture. A pure culture is a bacterial culture made up of only one species. Notice below that all of the growth looks the same.
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