Project MERCCURI is a citizen science project to examine the diversity of microbes on Earth and on the International Space Station, led by the Eisen Lab and UC Davis, SciStarter, and the Science Cheerleaders, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Space Florida and Nanoracks. There are three components: 1) Swabbing shoes and cell phones and built environments to examine how bacteria differ across different types of surfaces in a building. 2) The Microbial Playoffs In Space (taking place right now and described below!) to explore how microbes from YOUR favorite team perform in the space playoffs. 3) Swabbing the inside of the International Space Station to see what kinds of bacteria lurk on the surfaces inside the International Space Station (ISS).
Analysis of the growth data from space is ongoing but we have some preliminary results to share: -Firstly, 47 of the 48 bacteria grew at least a little bit in space, the only exception was the sample collected from the Philadelphia Phillies dugout. Sorry guys! -A number of the bacteria grew quite well in fact, filling up the entire well on the plate. We’ll have pictures of this once the next Dragon spacecraft returns with our plates, hopefully sometime in January. -We had hoped to be able to announce the winners of the microbial playoffs by today, but it’s such a close race in each category that we’re going to have to do some more detailed analysis over the next couple of days. Instead we’re announcing the finalists in each category, from which the winner will be decided. Rumor has it that a special prize is in order for each of the winners. So here are the categories: “Best Tip-Off”. This is for the bacteria that starts growing right out of the gate. We measured this by the percentage increase in growth between time 0 and our first growth measurement 24 hours later. These bacteria all spent 9 months in the deep freeze, going around the earth every 90 minutes, but as soon as they thawed out they took off as if nothing had happened. Finalists: -Pantoea eucrina, collected from the Mercury Space Capsule at the Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space in Washington D.C. -Macrococcus brunensis, collected from the central keyboard at WHYY radio in Philadelphia, PA. -Leucobacter chironomi, collected from a residential toilet in Davis, CA. -Exiguobacterium acetylicum, collected from the 50-yard line at Candlestick Park, home of the San Francisco 49ers. -Paenibacillus elgii, collected from the Mars Exploration Rover before launch at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL-NASA) in Pasadena, CA. -Microbacterium oleivorans, collected from the mascot head at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia, PA.
Learn about the finalists for Best Sprint and Best Huddle at SpaceMicrobes.org .