CALLING ALL ALUMNI: THE “GERM”-INATION ALUMNI SCIENCE PROJECT
Unless you’ve been hiding under a very clean rock, you’ve probably heard of microbiomes. Right now, millions of individual life forms are crawling all over you. Based on cellular counts alone, the microbes have you matched 1 to 1.
The dazzling complexity of these microscopic ecosystems captures our imaginations and conjures countless questions. Take for example a seed. Where does its microbiome originate? How much comes from its parents? How much from the soil? How does its microbial community change as it germinates, grows and reproduces?
These questions wriggle in the mind of Jonathan Eisen, professor of evolution and ecology. But as an advocate for community science engagement, he has larger questions like, how do you bring microbe-oriented science to the people? How do you tap the growing citizen science fervor seen in other areas like bird watching and galaxy classification and apply it to the unseen world of microbes?
This is where you come in. We need your help designing and collecting the results of an experiment on seeds. You’ll help us accumulate a tapestry of knowledge to better understand seed microbiomes. Together, we’ll move beyond crowdsourcing to true, distributed community science. You’ve just been recruited.
With this project, Eisen puts the full scientific process in the hands of UC Davis alumni and their families and friends.
“Most people already think like a scientist some of the time,” says Eisen. “That’s why this is so exciting; we’re getting people to think more about the importance of microbes, and their help is extremely useful for driving science research.”
Eisen is no stranger to crowdsourced microbiology projects. He’s involved broad communities in studying the microbiomes of kitties, seagrass, humans, sporting arenas and even the International Space Station. But in these projects, the communities were mainly involved in collecting samples, not in designing experiments and analyzing data.
The data generated through GASP could even be used to craft course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs).