Anne Maczulak has a PhD from the University of Kentucky and MBA from Golden Gate University. Over her career, she has re-invented herself a few times but always returns to her main interests of bacteria, birds, and books, all with one thing in common: an interest in nature and our environment.
After college, Anne conducted studies at the New York State Department of Health before working as a microbiologist with various consumer products companies. Over the years, she has studied bacteria in the environment as well as microbes on the bodies of humans and other animals. Few scientists have examined the protozoa of a cow’s stomach, plus bacteria in the gut of horses, people, and elephants, plus yeast growing on skin and cysts in natural waters that threaten drinking water. She has helped develop new disinfectants, water purifiers, antimicrobial soaps, and deodorants. She has also inspected the slimy biofilms that coat the inside of pipes, cold-loving bacteria for laundry detergents, and spores that digest the stuff in septic tanks.
Anne has written articles on germs and germophobia for magazines such as Psychology Today and Women’s Health. She answered callers’ questions on germs on Martha Stewart Living Radio and has appeared on other radio and television programs. Anne consulted for several years for drug, biotech, and chemical companies. She is now a technical writer living in California and teaches writing skills.
One Author, Two Disciplines
In the late 1970s, Anne Maczulak’s advisor discouraged her from graduate school, saying she did not “have what it takes.” Anne answered by earning advanced degrees in animal nutrition and microbiology and building a 20-year career as an applied research microbiologist at Gillette, Clorox, and Brita.
For many years, Anne worked on humdrum consumer products such as shampoos, detergents, and toilet bowl cleaners. But her work also took her on hunts for bacteria in the environment – bacteria with attributes that could help simple household tasks. Few people know that the invention of cold-water laundry soaps was made possible by enzymes from bacteria that love the coolness of soils deep underground. Septic tank cleaners and drain openers rely on bacterial spores that sit idle for years but burst into digestive action when they find all the delicious goodies inside pipes. Even the yeast inside a dog’s ears has something to do with an occasional bout of dandruff. And outside the home, U.S. Navy ships depend on the cleaning power of bacteria to remove the gunk from inside their massive waste holding tanks. Anne has worked on all these projects.
Anne has retrieved soils for lab studies on environmental cells and spores. She has sucked air into a sampling canister to learn about the numbers and types of airborne microbes all around us. She has scooped water samples from streams to collect Giardia and Cryptosporidium, hazards to anyone with the courage to drink directly from a stream without first filtering the water.
Anne likes finding these connections between environmental microbes, especially bacteria, and their effects on ordinary life. Bacteria were here billions of years before us and will remain for millennia after people are gone from Earth. Sooner or later, we all become part of a multitude of microbes’ lifecycles. To Anne, that’s comforting too.
Some days, a person just needs to get out of the lab. Or the office. For Anne, that means picking up a spotting scope and binoculars and heading out to find birds. She has been birding (another word for birdwatching) since she was young, but became a serious birder in college.
Anne is not a mega-bird lister. She keeps a list of all the birds she sees and can identify, but avoids competitions to compile a life list in the thousands. Instead, Anne prefers learning each bird’s behavior, idiosyncrasies, favorite habitats, and trends. By watching birds this way, she can gain insight into changes in our surroundings caused by vehicles, roads, noise, housing, and … too many people! Very quickly, a birder sees which species are hardy generalists that will overcome any challenge dreamed up by humanity. But Anne is like other birders in worrying about the species that visibly decline over a short period of time.
Anne travels around North America on birding trips and to bird festivals. She has also branched out just a little – heading to the Arctic and Antarctic on nature expeditions to see up close the crisis of climate change.
In her spare time, Anne helps on field trips and has guided new birders to the best local places to find birds and given tips on bird identification. She is currently writing a unique new book on birds for beginners and on the trail of every jay species in North America.