Journalist Courtney Humphries went all-in to write about the microbes living on the inside of buildings for Science Magazine – She swabbed 10 surfaces in her own apartment and sent them off to the University of Colorado, Boulder, for DNA analysis, reporting her results in a NewsFocus article in the February 10 issue of the prestigious scientific journal.
Courtney’s samples represent the first results from the Wild Life of Our Homes project, a collaboration between the Dunn Lab at NC State University and the Fierer Lab at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Our citizen science project aims to boldly go where few have explored before: the wide, wild world of microbes living inside our homes.
As Rob Dunn, project co-leader, explains to Courtney in the article, our real goal “is to understand not just what is there but why, and to see the extent to which these [microbial] species are associated with our lifestyles, geography, and climate.”
So what did we find in Courtney’s apartment? Of the 10 surfaces she sampled, including the tops of door frames, her kitchen counter, and pillowcase, perhaps the most intriguing find was the microbes she sampled from her TV screen; those microbes weren’t the usual suspects we typically encounter in water, soil, or on the human body – they just might be some species entirely new to science!
We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the microbial diversity within our homes – Soon, we’ll be sending out sampling kits en masse to the first batch of volunteers who signed up with the project. If you’re interested in participating, let us know right here.