On Our Campus There Lives a Microbe that Can Poop Gold…We Just Don't Know Where It Is.
It almost certainly sounds made up, but it isn’t. A bacterial species of the genus Delftia can precipitate gold out of solution. Let them grow in water with gold, and they accumulate gold. All of this we know. We also know the genes that Delftia uses to accomplish this incredible feat. But here is the rub. We don’t really have a clue where Delftia lives, how many species of Delftia there might be, or how important this gold pooping power is for Delftia. We need your help answering these questions, and first, we have to find Delftia! The barrier to doing this work is having broad samples from across the NC State campus, including creative samples we might not, on our own, even think to take, and that's why we need your help!
Participants will receive swabs and take samples around the NC State campus. Those samples will go to the NCSU Biotechnology Program (BIT), where the DNA will be extracted and we'll target the gold-pooping gene to identify Delftia from all the other microbes in the sample. All that DNA extracting and reaction setup will be a lot of work, and that's where a special volunteer comes in—the BitBot! The BitBot is a specialized robot that students in Dr. Carlos C. Goller's high-throughput discovery and metagenomics classes and will be programmed to detect Delftia for us! Then we'll take those samples and sequence all the DNA with help from the Genomic Sciences Laboratory (GSL) on campus. This will allow us to learn which samples have Delftia, and which microbes associate with samples that have Delftia ("what friends tag along when Delftia is present).
Once all this is done we'll finally have robust data to help us answer our questions! Our citizen scientists will work with Dr. Goller and the NCSU Libraries to conduct bioinformatics and GIS analysis of the data, which we'll present to campus at the end of the semester.
In addition to helping us understand the ecology of this organism on our campus, you will be contributing to an ongoing study on why Delftia has this unique gold gene sequence and what its function is. Your participation in this project will contribute data about the often overlooked yet fascinating microbes in our surroundings. Data will be collected and deposited on a publically accessible database where you can track your samples and interact with the visualizations to learn about the presence of Delftia on the NC State campus. Where will YOU find Delftia?
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