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.
Attention students! If you have published a paper in which you have studied the natural history of a pest, a paper you think is elegant, transformative, or just cool, you can enter it here to win a prize of $500. This money is for students only, though if you are a faculty member and have done interesting work on the natural history of pests we want to hear from you too (you just won’t get any money). And, if you have some money you want to donate, in order to support students doing this important work, work that has so long gone undone, you can donate here.
As a rule of thumb, we like to assume that if a surface exists, there’s something (or many things) living on it. These “things” are microscopic organisms – bacteria, fungi, protists, and even archaea – and they’re all very hard at work turning dead things anew into life, or even turning the nutrients in air into bits and pieces of their cells. We smell the presence of these workings, but forget to consider the thriving life forms it bespeaks.
Each detail of our daily lives has a history and, just as with any history, it is a history we would do well to learn from. Consider the biology of your dinner table. Your table itself is Syrian or Iraqi as is most of the food on it.
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