Students examine The Perse ‘Microverse’
Sixth form students from the Biology Society took part this week in a Natural History Museum citizen science project entitled ‘The Microverse’, which aims to map the diversity and distribution of different microorganisms surviving in our towns and cities.
The Microverse project forms part of the Museum’s research into discovering and understanding the microorganisms that can survive in challenging environments. Although buildings may not appear to be ‘extreme’ environments by human standards, for living organisms they present many survival challenges such as providing limited access to nutrients, subjecting organisms to extremes of wet and dry and often being exposed to high levels of pollution.
The students collected samples of mircoorganisms from the exterior walls of the main school building from the brickwork, glass and wood surfaces. The swabs were sealed inside tubes of DNA preservative and data about the collection area was recorded. These samples have now been sent to the Museum for DNA analysis. The DNA sequences will be compared to known samples on a database to identify the microorganisms present on the Perse school walls, as well as their relative abundance. The Museum will send us a report of the data which will be interpreted and discussed at a future Biology Society meeting.
By taking part in the project the students have contributed to genuine scientific research and to the Museum’s collection as the data will be used to publish academic research in a scientific journal and the specimens will be incorporated into the Natural History Museum’s Molecular Collections Facility.