Scientia
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#siLab: METAS Lab

Blog | Bienvenido Castro

Editor’s note: This article also appeared in Scientia’s Facebook page.

Just like how our world is filled with a diversity of plants, animals, and other creatures, entire ecosystems also exist at the microscopic level; a drop of water or the surface of a soil particle contains its own bustling microcosm.

Studying these tiny worlds gives us many clues about our world, including the condition of our environment and how nature has adapted, and this is exactly what is being done in the Microbial Ecology of Terrestrial and Aquatic Systems Laboratory or the METAS Lab of the Institute of Biology.

Two scientists lead the METAS Lab: Dr. Marie Christine Obusan who directs research on aquatic ecosystems, and Dr. Jessica Simbahan who tackles terrestrial ecosystems. With many research interests in common, they founded the lab together in 2017.

METAS Lab’s projects focus primarily on the discovery and characterization of microorganisms with useful enzymes, which are substances that can speed up a biochemical reaction.

One of their discoveries is finding Bacillus amyloliquefaciens M., a species of bacteria usually found in soil, living within or inside the leaves of the narra tree in Mt. Makiling. They are currently testing this bacteria as a potential biofertilizer and biofungicide.

The METAS Lab turns to extreme environments to find these potential targets. For example, the lab is currently studying promising plastic-degrading bacteria in one of the dirtiest river systems in the world, the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando River System (MMORS).

The METAS Lab also studies sentinel species, which are species that serve as indicators of potential danger to humans. Dr. Obusan leads Philippine efforts to understand why cetaceans (dolphins and whales) wash up on beaches and what this means for human health, as cetaceans have similar physiology to humans, being mammals.

Beyond research work, the METAS Lab also develops educational materials and uses social media to increase the reach of their research, and each year they accept high school students for internships in microbiology.

In the future, the METAS Lab hopes to amplify their research efforts by modifying the organisms they discover and optimizing them for use in the industry.

Follow their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/metaslabibupd/) or visit their website at https://metaslab.weebly.com/ to learn more.

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Scientia

The official student publication of the College of Science, UP Diliman.