Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc. and the Science Cheerleaders team up to study microbes in space.

Pop Warner Science Cheerleaders MO State Fair
Project MERCCURI: Space Station Microbiome and Microbes in Space

As part of our ongoing national partnership with Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc., the Science Cheerleaders will help youth cheerleaders and football players across the country collect and analyze microbes through mid August. Some of their samples will be sent to the International Space Station.

The Science Cheerleaders have already collected microbes at the Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs and Philadelphia Phillies games with more exciting venues to follow. And now, we’re setting our sights on Pop Warner!

The first 50 Pop Warner teams to sign up, from unique zip codes, will get to join our science team, and collect DNA from their environment! The microbial DNA in the sample will be sequenced, and combined with thousands of other samples to help map out the microbial diversity of the places we go and the things we bring with us. Participants will receive a shoe and phone sampling kit along with instructions.

Pop Warner cheer and football teams can sign up by July 10 simply by emailing Darlene@SciStarter.com with the team name, city/state and a point of contact.

At least one team’s samples will be selected to fly on the International Space Station, where we will look at how near zero gravity affects its growth!!

Project MERCCURIProject MERCCURI is a collaboration of UC Davis / microBEnet with the Science Cheerleaders, Space Florida, Nanoracks, NASA, and SciStarter. There are three components to the project:

1) Space Station Microbiome. Collecting microbial swab samples from the International Space Station (ISS) and examining the microbial communities therein (via 16S sequencing)

2) Swabbing Sports and Space Events. Collecting swab samples around the country at sporting and other public events from cell phones, shoes, and various surfaces (e.g. keyboards, screens, railings etc.) These will be used for comparison to the ISS samples and for a look at microbial biogeography across a national scale. In collaboration with Jack Gilbert at the Earth Microbiome Project and the Science Cheerleaders who will be organizing and leading the sampling events.

3) Microbial Playoffs. A microbial growth competition on the ISS. A subset of samples collected at public events will be cultured at UC Davis and the “best” microbe from each environment will be sent to the ISS for a “microbial playoffs” competition. A duplicate of this experiment will be conducted on earth and the results compared. Details here.

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