Shared publicly  - 
 
I was very sad to hear about Carl Woese's passing.  I was fortunate enough to have spent many hours with him at the University of Illinois in the 1990s.  Carl used to invite me over to his lab where he educated me about the nature of the microbial world and particularly the peculiar "third domain of life," the Archaea (see Jonathan's nice blog below).  I was never sure why he spent so much time with me, but it created a foundation of understanding for me about the essential role of microbes in almost all aspects of this planet's living ecosystem.

These conversations with Carl are what led me to respond positively to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation's request to set up a global data and computation center for microbial metagenomics by teaming with the J. Craig Venter Institute.  This system, located on the first floor of Calit2, called CAMERA (camera.calit2.net), now has over 5000 users from over 80 countries.

Less well known is that my conversations with Carl, including a pilgrimage I made to his home a few years ago, is what led me to push so deeply on analyzing my gut microbiome.  Again it was JCVI that sequenced a stool sample I took on 12/28/12 and Weizhong Li from the CAMERA team who did the computational analysis of the 230 million short Illumina reads. To my great surprise, the largest microbial phyla fractional abundance in my gut, besides the usual Firmicutes, were the Euryarchaeota--a phylum of the Archaea! In contrast, the average healthy human gut has 125x less Archaea than I did a year ago.  

I wanted to share this strange result with Carl, but by the time I was sure the results were correct he was very far along in his illness and I didnt want to bother him.  Nonetheless, it is ironic that I should have housed inside of me in 2012 so many of the microbes Carl and his colleagues showed to be the third branch of the Tree of Life 35 years earlier and that Carl and I had long discussions on in his lab 20 years ago.

Maybe I now am beginning to see why Carl had me over to his lab back then to help set me on a path of understanding the genomic structure of the microbial world...
3
1
Benjamin Smarr's profile photoJoseph Smarr's profile photo
 
What a fascinating and lovely reflection!
 
That's sad news. You put a very nice light on his influence on you. Good support for the hypothesis that you can't understand your future until it has happened. Glad he and you both pursued the relationship, as it's obviously a huge part of your work and life now!
Add a comment...