A ground-breaking project recruiting members of the public to become citizen scientists is set to expand in bold new directions, with support from one of Australia’s most well-known scientists.
The Microblitz project, led by researchers at The University of Western Australia, involves a wide-scale DNA sequencing survey of the environment to identify and map the microbial life of Western Australian soils.
The project is recruiting members of the public, including school students, people from remote communities, and those travelling the country, to provide soil samples so scientists can understand the location of the types of microbes in the soil that give us a healthy and productive landscape.
Nobel Prize winner Professor Barry Marshall has thrown his support behind the project, in a bid to gather additional data on microorganisms in the soils of remote communities that may cause disease or affect human health.
“Soil samples can provide a great deal of information about what might affect people’s health, but it’s difficult to get to every location to gather samples,” Professor Marshall said.
“The Microblitz project gives everyone the opportunity to become citizen scientists – to contribute to real research that will make a difference to health outcomes for remote communities all over Australia.”
Microblitz is the brain-child of UWA Professor Andy Whiteley who was awarded a Premier’s Fellowship in 2012 to bring his research to Western Australia.
“Our early work with MicroBlitz showed that the natural environment of WA harbours thousands of species of bacteria, most being necessary for a healthy landscape,” Professor Whiteley said.
“However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the ‘environmental microbiome’ can also influence our own health by acting as a reservoir or transmission route for pathogens”
“This new evolution is incredibly exciting as Professor Marshall was already a MicroBlitzer so it was an obvious step to integrate our expertise and combine it with our respective passions for science communication.”
“This now means that we will go to the four corners of the state and give our MicroBlitzers the best science experience possible, helping them to generate unique samples for both environment and emerging health related research questions”.
The MicroBlitz project will again be supported by the environmental technology company, Gaia Resources.
Gaia Resources Director Piers Higgs said the company was previously involved in developing the first MicroBlitz app and web site, and with the introduction of new technologies they have developed, the project would be updated and would lead the way in citizen science.
“Innovative citizen science programs like MicroBlitz, that use technology to connect citizen scientists across the State, are exactly the sort of project that we were founded to support, and it’s great to be working with the MicroBlitz team again” he said.
To find out how to become a citizen scientist for the Microblitz project go to www.microblitz.com.au
David Stacey (UWA Media and PR Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716