After over a year of collecting and screening hundreds of samples from the built environment we have just sent our collection of 48 “finalists” to Florida for the upcoming launch. Samples have come from all over the country including NFL/NBA/MBL games, sites of historic interest (e.g. the Liberty Bell), and a number of schools. These will all be grown up on the international space station (ISS) and their growth compared to control plates on earth. In addition, the astronauts will collect a number of swabs samples from around the station that we’ll analyze for 16S and get a sense for who is living on the station. Finally the main outreach portion of the project has been to collect 4000 cell phone/shoe samples from public participants around the country. This has provided a wonderful opportunity to connect with the public and push our message of “microbes are everywhere around you and most of them are harmless or beneficial”. These 16S results will be compared to those on the ISS and to previous work on cell phones and shoes from Jack Gilbert’s lab.
Check out the Project MERCCURI website here.