JOUR FIXE with Tom Battin
The structural beauty of biofilms - and implications
THE STRUCTURAL BEAUTY OF BIOFILMS - AND IMPLICATIONS
Biofilms dominate microbial life in numerous natural and engineered systems, and are even considered as an ancient form of multicellular life on Earth. Wherever microorganisms hit a wetted surface, they may settle, reproduce and produce a slimy matrix. Communication among microorganisms and share of labour figure among prominent processes that occur in these microbial “slime cities”. This biofilm mode of life offers many advantages to the highly diverse microorganisms in environments that are often harsh in nature and characterized by chemical warfare. In the wild, these biofilms contribute much to ecosystem processes and even to the global carbon cycle - and still they remain the hidden players.
Tom J. Battin is Professor of Limnology at the University of Vienna and group leader at the Interuniversity Centre for Aquatic Ecosystem Research, WasserCluster Lunz. He teaches basic ecology, physical limnology and aquatic ecology. His current research focuses on biofilm ecology and on carbon cycling in streams - from Alpine glaciers to the Tropics.