2011 Annual Science Report

Pennsylvania State University Reporting  |  SEP 2010 – AUG 2011

EPO Activity: EPO: Citizen Science Study of Distributed Domestic Water Heater Microbiology Diversity

Project Progress

Presently, there is a growing interest in the biogeography of microorganisms. By looking at the genetic differences from isolates of similar microbes from across the globe, researchers are currently trying to understand the degree to which populations of microbes are isolated and whether this isolation suggests an allopatric speciation model for prokaryotes. We propose to conduct a citizen science pilot study of microbial diversity in water heaters to both (1) access the feasibility of basing a citizen science project on field microbiology, and (2) generate a first image of the biogeographic distribution of thermophilic microorganisms across the United States.

We have 2-3 interested households in each state (plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico). We have completed the questionnaire for households and are currently assembling the packets for shipment to interested households. The microbial samples will arrive back at Penn State in early 2012 and will be processed to look for microbes. This project will be completed in FY 2012.

Sampling Water From Domestic Water Heaters for Microbial Diversity

The PSARC Citizen Science Project will study the biogeographic distribution of thermophilic microorganisms across the United States. Water will be sampled from domestic water heaters, collected in filters, and shipped back to Penn State for processing.