microbiome rewilding

Acacia papyrocarpa - Western myall

Endemic to Australia, this is Jacob Mills' favorite tree he mentioned in our interview. The one that grows amongst the bluebush landscape.

Drought tolerant, studies show the tree sources deep soil water and perhaps groundwater at more than 60 feet belowground.

Microbiome Rewilding with Jacob Mills

My guest on this inaugural edition of treehugger is a PhD researcher at The University of Adelaide. His name is Jacob Mills and we discuss microbiome rewilding - the use of urban biodiversity to restore the human exposure of microbes to a more native, healthier state. This exposure is hypothesised to encourage a state of immune system training and regulation that is being rapidly and disproportionately lost in urban populations of industrialized countries where non-communicable disease rates have grown out of control. Jacob’s broader motivation is to reconnect people to nature by showing them that they are a walking ecosystem whose health is fundamentally tied to the health of the wider environment.

Jacob was the principle author on the article titled “Urban habitat restoration provides a human health benefit through microbiome rewilding: the Microbiome Rewilding Hypothesis.” This was a 2017 Opinion Article in the Restoration Ecology journal.

Now if you are a lot familiar or not familiar with your microbiome or rewilding, you will probably think about your next nature walk a little differently after listening to our conversation. We have lots of bacteria, protozoa, viruses and fungi that have evolved with hominids since Australopithecus! Ecologists are beginning to conceptualize the microbiome as part of our own personal ecosystem.

Most recently, for this work, Jacob’s team was honored with the Bradshaw Award by the Society for Ecological Restoration at the 8th World Conference on Ecological Restoration that took place in Cape Town, South Africa.

  • In our discussion, we get into what the human microbiome(s) is and how it may act like an ecosystem.

  • Then, he lays out his hypothesis and ties it to some related ecological theory

  • He talks about what this means for promoting human healthspans

  • He explains some of his team’s tools and monitoring techniques

  • We theorize about the “right” type of greenspace we may need to optimize our exposure to beneficial bacteria

So, I think this is a hot topic not only for restoration but for understanding the mechanisms of environmental exposure. We are bound to read and hear more about this research and practice in the future.