Writing Exercise #2

How did it feel to read and critique someone else’s writing?

I have peer reviewed many times in my life, both formally and informally. I have gained experience with this since my freshman year, with everything from writing courses to science classes. When I first started peer reviewing, I was uncomfortable giving others advice and breaking down aspects of their papers which, in my opinion, needed work. But as I progressed through my major, I was exposed to the experience again and again. One experience that sticks out to me is advice I got on a lab report in a general Chemistry course. The comment essentially told me to save a few aspects and otherwise start from scratch. At first I was defensive, but eventually decided the reviewer was right and took his advice. Due to this, I got an A on the report and in the class overall.

Over time, I gained an appreciation for others opinions on my work, whether or not I decided to apply them. This helped me realize that others likely feel the same way. Since this realization, I have been honest in my reviews without the fear as coming off as harsh. Especially since my experience with my lab review. A component of the peer review which can help reduce this fear is making the process anonymous, which this course did. That way there is no concern over judgement from the author or reviewer.

I am especially excited to receive reviews on my proposal as I was concerned with the structure of my study. I believe I did well, but having a peer’s opinion is invaluable. While I have felt that other reviews I have received have been valuable, I believe the reviews for this project will be immensely helpful.

What did you learn that you can apply to your own writing?

I learned a great deal from the peer review process. While I have not yet received reviews on my own project, I believe that simply reviewing others gave me a lot of useful information. For example, both papers I reviewed contained a similar amount of background information / explanation of the purpose as my own paper. This was excellent as I was concerned that I focused too heavily on that and not enough on the experimental design. Furthermore, I realized that I went more in depth on the method than either paper I reviewed, and have decided to reduce that section as a response. This will allow me to fit more into areas I felt I was lacking.

Overall, simply reading others ideas and seeing how they went about planning their study helped me feel more confident in my own proposal. In a way, we went about this project blind. Just seeing other examples created by my peers helped me know I was on track.

Writing Exercise #1 – Microbial Population Analysis

List Characteristics of a Microbial Population.

What comes to mind initially regarding a microbial population are the species’ sources of Energy and Carbon. For example, a population which derives its Energy and Carbon from organic sources would be termed a “Chemoheterotroph”. Breaking this down, Chemo signifies the organisms receive their energy from chemicals, while Heterotroph indicates that the organism must consume others to fulfill its nutritional requirements. Conversely, a Population could be designated as a Photoautotroph. The components of this name are broken down into “Photo” which means they capture energy from the suns light (photons) to produce necessary organic compounds and “Auto” which means they are able to synthesize their own food from simple organic substances. All variations of these arrangements exist, as organisms, especially microbes, show incredible diversity. Some are even categorized as “mixotrophs” and are able to take advantage of a range of metabolic options depending on the most advantageous in their current environment.

While these categories are helpful, their classification still leaves many questions. Further characteristic determinants of microbials include environmental aspects such as: pH range, temperature, prevalent gasses, osmotic pressure, nutrient availability, water availability, etc. It is important to note, however, that each population has varying acceptable ranges for each of these and some are more “sensitive” to changes than others. These environmental characteristics are valuable to researchers in many ways. Collecting this information allows them to make generalized assumptions as to the various populations which are likely present in a given environment.

How does this differ from a Microbial Community?

As mentioned, the previous environmental characteristics can be very helpful in making assumptions regarding the populations likely present. However, when discussing communities the focus is larger and encompasses many populations, their interactions and the environmental influence. According to Nature Research, a microbial community is simply defined as the groups of microorganisms which share a living space and interact (Nature 2021). The analysis of a community brings important new questions to the table. One such question, how do these various populations interact, is vital in understanding the dynamics of the community, For example, some populations may be predators of another, or conversely, one community may be reliant on the byproducts of another. Interactions from parasitism to symbiosis are present and important factors of all communities.

Analysis of the communities characteristics through various means has proven to be pivotal in bettering our understanding of the natural world, as well as increasing our ability to manipulate it to better our needs. A great example of this is soil microbiology research and its contribution to farming. Without working to better understand populations interactions and beneficial species preferred conditions, progressing our farming practices would likely not have proven to be so successful.


Springer Nature Limited. Microbial Communities. Nature Research, 2021. Retrieved From: