Argonne National Laboratory

Video: Microbial Bebop - "Far and Wide"

This musical composition was created from data of microbes (bacteria, algae and other microorganisms) sampled in the English Channel. Argonne National Laboratory biologist Peter Larsen created the songs as a unique way to present and comprehend large datasets.

Microbial species of the Order Rickettsiales, such as the highly abundant, free-living planktonic species Pelagibacter ubique, are typical highly abundant taxa in L4 Station data. Its relative abundance in the microbial community at L4 Station follows a distinctive seasonal pattern. In this composition, there are two chords per measure, generated from photosynthetically active radiation measurements and temperature. The melody of each measure is six notes that describe the relative abundance of the Order Rickettsiales. The first note of each measure is from the relative abundance at a time point. The next five notes of a measure follow one of the following patterns: a continuous rise in pitch, a continuous drop in pitch, a rise then drop in pitch, or a drop then rise in pitch. These patterns are matched to the relative abundance of Rickettsiales at the given time point, relative to the previous and subsequent time points. The pattern of notes in a measure is mapped to the relative abundance of Rickettsiales with fewer rests per measure indicating higher abundance. For time points at which Rickettsiales was the most abundant microbial taxa, the corresponding measure is highlighted with a cymbal crash.

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Image: Diatoms under a microscope: These tiny phytoplankton are encased within a silicate cell wall. Credit: Prof. Gordon T. Taylor, Stony Brook University

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