Our Home’s Wild Life
Today Nitzan & I were citizen-scientists, sampling several locations in our home for microbial sequencing. We did this as part of Your Wild Life, a project hosted at North Carolina State University’s Biology Department. The Wild Life of Our Homes looks to sequence household microbial communities in a large number of homes. From their site:
With simple sampling devices, statistical wherewithal, and the ability to detect invisible species using genetic methods, we now have the tools and techniques necessary for domestic exploration. But we’re missing one very important member of our team: YOU. We need you, the citizen field biologist to go boldly where few have gone before, into the life-filled ecosystem of your house.
With your help, we’ll start by exploring the microbial life of our homes. Microbes are abundant and ubiquitous on our bodies, in the environment, and in our homes, yet we know so little about their diversity in the most everyday places. We aim to change that by building an atlas of house-associated microbial diversity. We’ll use information you provide about the features of your house and lifestyle to test a handful of hypothesis that might explain something about the microbial communities we observe in your homes.
Their hypotheses include the effect of the home’s physical characteristics on the microbial communities, the effect of household pets and livestock on the microbial diversity, the effects of geography and climate, and the influence of microbes on the occupants’ health.
So we signed up to participate in the study. And waited. And waited. And actually kinda forgot about it. But a few days ago, I received an email saying our sampling packet is on its way. And yesterday, it arrived. Inside it were four swab kits, and instructions:
First the kitchen counter. Hopefully no salmonella in the shakshuka we prepared there less than an hour ago:
Next,my pillowcase. No danger of any hair-associated microbes there:
Then, the top of an indoor door frame. Wise choice. Nobody cleans there:
Dusty swab cotton:
Finally, the door frame of the external door:
Geez, what’s up there?
Put everything in the return envelope:
One last thing…
I put in a note asking for the FASTQ files (raw sequencing data) so I can play with these data myself. But regardless, Your Wild Life will put up the results on their website, which we can identify using the confirmation code they gave us. So hopefully in a few months we’ll learn know just who lived in our home, besides us humans.