Think of the weirdest creatures you’ve even seen in a sci-fi film. Now think of this: there are far stranger, albeit smaller, critters living in your own home. And Rob Dunn at North Carolina State University wants you to go on safari to find them.

Research has been done on the diversity of bacteria, fungi and other organisms that live on our skin, in our guts, even in our belly buttons. But there are other entire ecosystems that surround us. And scientists want to understand how they differ based on how and where we live. What’s the tiny life like on a door frame in Brooklyn compared with that in Des Moines? Or how do fridge microbes of an urban singleton stack up with those of a suburban family?

The research team seeks ten volunteers from each state, five urban and five rural. Each volunteer will get a kit of vials and swabs, along with instructions about where and how to swipe—such as door frames, couch cushions, refrigerators, even yourself. The samples will be analyzed, to uncover the secrets of our microscopic companions.

Cynthia Graber