In this episode, we explore the invisible life that dwells inside your showerhead!
Patterns, Cause and Effect
The Showerhead Microbiome Project is a citizen science effort. Here's how the website describes it:
We plan to sample showerheads around the United States and Europe by engaging participants, folks like you (or like Van Leeuwenhoek) with both an interest in the life around us and, well, a shower, to help us out. Once showerheads are sampled (using an easy kit we will send to you), we then use diverse approaches to study what lives on your showerhead. Noah Fierer’s lab will look at whether we can grow Mycobacterium from your showerhead and if so how many (and what kinds).
We’ll look at what other microbes are present. We’ll do some provisional studies of your water itself. Then we’ll use statistical approaches to see what seems to be associated with the differences among houses, water systems and even countries in the biology of showerheads.
We have some hypotheses as to what determines what lives on showerheads. We think the water matters. We think the kind of showerhead may matter. We think it may even matter if you have, on your showerhead, amoebas that eat the mycobacteria and, in doing so, keep them in check, the leopards of your bathroom Serengeti. But we’ll also be interested to hear what you think might be important. We know so little about the life around us that your observations are likely to change our perspective.
Lindsay and Marshall signed up to participate last fall, but you can still add yourself to the list of willing citizen scientists!
As Noah tells us in the episode, you don't have to go far to discover new species. The showerhead project is part of a bigger project to reveal the small species on our bodies, under our beds, and in our backyards. Dr. Rob Dunn is a scientist and author devoted to telling their stories through citizen science. From bees, to bread, to beer, to pants, to ants, check out the AMAZING public science projects from his lab.
YOUR WILD LIFE is a great site to explore these projects and everything having to do with education and public science!
If you're an advanced reader, we highly recommend Rob Dunn's book on the microbes that live on the human body. It's part of what inspires our storytelling on Tumble.
Looking for citizen science that goes beyond microbes? SciStarter has a handy guide to find projects that fit your interests and location... and you can sign up today!
To learn more about topics discussed in this episode, check out our list of Research Resources, available on Patreon!