Public awareness about the role and interaction of microbes is essential for promoting human and environmental health, say scientists presenting research at the Ecological Society of America's (ESA) 96th Annual Meeting from August 7-12, 2011. Researchers shed light on the healthy microbes of the human body and other research on microbial and disease ecology to be presented at ESA's 2011 meeting in Austin, Texas.
Human skin is teeming with microbes—communities of bacteria, many of which are harmless, live alongside the more infamous microbes sometimes found on the skin. Nina Rountree from North Carolina State University and colleagues set out to dispel the myth that all bacteria on the skin are disease-causing germs. The researchers cultured the bacterial communities living within bellybuttons of 391 individuals from across the U.S. and published photos of the cultures anonymously in the online Bellybutton Bacteria Culture database. They chose bellybuttons as an area of the body that is generally protected from excretions, soaps and ultraviolet ray exposure.
The experiment generated interest among citizen scientists and provided clues about the stability of bacterial communities over time, the significant turnover between participants' bacterial communities and similarities of bacterial communities between family members. The Bellybutton Bacteria Culture database received 55,000 visitors in only three months.
The research entitled "Beta-diversity of human skin bacteria studied with the citizen science approach" led by Nina Rountree from North Carolina State University, will be presented Friday, August 12 during the "Biodiversity" poster session.
The Ecological Society of America is the world's largest professional organization of ecologists, representing 10,000 scientists in the United States and around the globe. Since its founding in 1915, ESA has promoted the responsible application of ecological principles to the solution of environmental problems through ESA reports, journals, research, and expert testimony to Congress. ESA publishes four print journals—and one online-only, open-access journal Ecosphere—and convenes an annual scientific conference. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org or find experts in ecological science at http://www.esa.org/pao/rrt.