In the Dunn lab we have worked for the last decade to study the life in homes. We have swabbed belly buttons, searched under beds, looked into shower heads, and scrubbed refrigerators, all for science. It is only recently though, led by Anne Madden, that we have begun to focus in on those species in homes likely to have the most value to society. The life around you in your home and backyard includes species of enormous value to society as well as species that will someday have such value. In doing so, we have found species that can turn waste into energy, species that can make new kinds of [...]
It all started in a street median in Manhattan, not far from Mary Tyler Moore’s apartment. Marko Pecaravic decided to do a thesis on the ants of street medians, ants like those that live along Broadway and elsewhere in Manhattan. The thesis was directed by James Danoff-Burg and I would co-mentor it. That thesis, and other work with Jim, would lead me to realize that for many species, and especially for ants, that discoveries lurked in our collective backyards. Scientists overlook backyards in favor of more remote settings. Non-scientists overlook backyards, assuming that someone else understands them. No one understands the life in backyards. Our backyards and even homes are our [...]
We want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who participated in the Showerhead Microbiome Project. We now have samples from nearly 700 homes across the U.S. and each swab is a critical part of our research. We would not have been able to accomplish a project of this magnitude without the help of all of the volunteers who donated their time and energy to this project.
Would you give a few minutes a year to reveal the future of forests? What would be the easiest citizen science project ever? Watching paint dry? Falling off a log? Maybe. But what would you, or anyone else, learn from that? We are starting a citizen science project almost as easy but much more important. Its called A Tree’s Life and all you need to do is monitor red maple growth in your yard. We even give you the supplies. It’s really just one supply called a dendrometer, and it does most of the work.
Help us in this long honored tradition of naming things of importance. We have dozens of yeast to name and we want each of them to have a story. Tweet us your suggestion and an explanation of why you have chosen a particular name. If you need more than 140 characters, screen capture the text. We will decide what names make the most sense for our particular yeasts and include them in a future peer-reviewed manuscript. Forever after these yeasts will have these names. These names you helped create.
Educators: We’d love to have your students help us name our new yeasts. Here’s some information to start the discussion with your students so that they can learn about the science of yeast.
One of the luxuries of writing about science is that it gives me a chance to weave together discoveries made in disparate fields. I can connect the stories for readers. Sometimes I can even connect the scientists themselves. But the more I write, the more that I see that where such connections are most conspicuously missed is not random. In some subfields of science our ignorance is both vast and predictable. One of these subfields is the intersection between basic ecology and evolutionary biology and application.
We’d like to share an update on the Showerhead Microbiome Project. It’s been a few weeks since you last heard from us (thank you for your patience), but the project has been moving along quickly! As of February 2017, we have sent out around 1,200 sampling kits across the United States and 300 kits in Europe (we can still use more European participants)! A huge thank you to everyone who has participated and sent back a sample in the last 6 months. If you haven’t returned your kit yet, we would love to see it in our mailbox soon! Now is the time to swab your showerhead, collect some data, and send everything back to Colorado.
A quick update on the Sourdough Project! We are currently up to 300 samples (and counting) and we’ve got a fantastic team of undergraduates working on processing and characterizing our samples: Kinsey Drake, Nick Kamkari, and Shravya Sakunala. Check out the map of our where the starters we have processed in the lab.
The Wolfe lab has been working to pinpoint just what makes sourdough starters so magical. It turns out that each flour has its own microbial “signature.” Tufts undergraduate Nick Kamkari has been plating out and characterizing different brands of-off-the shelf flours to learn more about what we should expect to find in each starter fed by that flour, to better be able to pinpoint what are the extra (delicious) microbes that make the starters successful.