Symbiotic slug art by our resident graphic designer, Leesa Hagerman


Welcome to BIOTA's first monthly newsletter! We'll be sending out updates every first Friday of the month. 

A quick refresher - BIOTA is a collective of people working together to shine a light on the strange and beautiful world of biological symbiosis. We make videos, tweet news updates, upload visuals on Instagram, reach out through Facebook, and will be sending you quirky newsletters just like this all with the intent tuning us in with the ecosystems surrounding us. Ultimately, we increase accessibility to STEAM by showcasing the enthusiasm of our own diverse team on biological relationships that are weird, implausible, overlooked, sometimes ugly, but always interesting.

Today's menu
Living Together - What is symbiosis?
Symbiosis is...
Congratulations! New Updates + Contact Info

Our camerawoman, Alondra Romero, snaps a shot of director Manny Collazo IV capturing screenwriter Nicholas Dove and host Sabah Ul-Hasan at Hetch Hetchy for Episode 2: The Sierra Nevada.

Living Together

Hold on. What is symbiosis? Symbiosis (plural: symbioses) is a word that’s often used by lay people to mean mutually beneficial. But biologists actually use symbiosis as a category of relationship in which two or more species are “living together” (“symphony” is "together sounds"; “biology” is “life study", so “symbiosis” is “together life”). Symbiosis is a category of relationship that includes mutualism (the proper biological term for a relationship in which both organisms benefit), parasitism (when one organism benefits, but the other is harmed), and a few other more rare types of relationships that we can address in some later posts. 

Want to learn more about coral - algae partnerships? 
Check out this website for an intro:

Image Credit

Sloths have complicated relationships
for more info, check out: 
Parasites are symbionts, too. 
Does this worm remind you of anyone famous
Picture from: here

Symbiosis is...

Mutual symbiosis is the relationship between the unicellular organisms turning sun and CO2 into sugars and sharing with their coral hosts, cows and the bacteria in their gut that help them turn grass into food, or the ecosystem of living-together organisms centered around the charismatic sloth. Commensal symbiosis is a cleaner shrimp getting the grime off of a fish's skin, without necessarily benefitted from the cleaning. Pathogenic or parasitic symbioses are the relationships of microorganisms bringing many tropical diseases to more than a billion people around the world. Symbiosis is the ancient origin of the last common ancestor of every form of life that is visible to the naked eye. As we attempt to live our own lives, and choose the type of society we want to live in, different types of symbiosis can be an inspiration or a warning. The maintenance of mutualism takes work. Once parasitism emerges, it can be hard to escape. 

Sabah Ul-Hasan asks Dr. Jay Sexton about plant-microbe interactions as Manny Collazo IV prepares to film the interview for Episode 1: The Central Valley Vernal Pools.

Wait... do you smell something burning? 

Our team has been cooking up a delicious episode on the above- and below-ground consequences of fires in central California. I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but it turns out Smokey the Bear may have been a little overzealous when he wanted to stop all the forest fires all the time. Stay tuned for more info in the next few months! 

Fire can destroy an ecosystem in the short term, but many forest types in the western United States contain plant species that regenerate quickly and make the forest more scrumptious than ever for animals looking for a salad to nom. 
Photo by Alondra Romero
A playful depiction of commensal symbiosis between cleaner shrimp and fish in marine environments.
Artwork by Leesa Hagerman
awesome cleaner shrimp illustration by @art_by_lah


awesome cleaner shrimp illustration by @art_by_lah
Finally, our own Sabah Ul-Hasan was honored with a Passion in Science Award from the New England BioLabs for her work on developing BIOTA! Yay Sabah! She emphasizes that she accepted this award on behalf of the entire BIOTA team, and that just like an ecosystem, our team members require each other to keep BIOTA functioning [additional sentence of cool things about Sabah that Sabah herself probably won’t like but we’ll publish anyway just to embarrass her... or maybe it would be funnier to just leave this sentence in here as a treat for readers who are amused by meta-humor] 
What are your thoughts on symbiosis? We'd like to hear them! Send us an email using the social media icons below, share and tell us what you think.
Sincerely and mutualistically, 
The BIOTA Team
Photo diplaying some of the August 2013 Rim Fire aftermath by Aldondra Romero
This newsletter is brought to you by our lovely science writers Jesse Emrys and Helen Cheng.

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BIOTA · 5200 Lake Road · Merced, California 95340 · USA

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