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Ever wondered what microorganisms live on you?You are alive, but just how alive? How many living organisms are on a square centimeter of your skin? What do they do, and how they differ from those of your neighbor? Very little is known about the life that breathes all over us. Each person's microbial jungle is so rich, colorful, and dynamic that in all likelihood your body hosts species that no scientist has ever studied. Your navel may well be one of the last biological frontiers.Sampling the nation for Belly Button BacteriaWe are a group of biologists and science communicators from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and we want to know what lives on us. But this project is as much about teaching as it is about learning. We imagine germs as bad, and yet most are not. Most are either good or simply present, whether in between your toes or up your nose. The diversity on our bodies is, like any biological diversity, fascinating and full of awe and we want to share the joy of discovering it with everyone. You give us a sample, we will grow and identify the bacteria, and you get the results. Meet your personal ecosystem, in color!Why begin with the belly button?Because no one volunteers when we ask for armpit samples. Because our belly buttons are relatively isolated, a place where microbes are safe. Because everybody has one, its what once connected us to our past. Yet, we barely notice it in our daily lives, to the point that few people actually wash theirs. Which is great for the bacteria! They are well protected, and provide a refuge of our wild nature. We can ask many questions about the microbes on our bodies (what controls which live where, whether the species on men and women are different, whether innies and outies sport different fancies, etc…) but a first step is to simply see who is there, the way the first explorers, upon arriving at new continents, simply wrote home to describe what they found.So far, so bountifulYour body's life is beautiful. Browse through our collection of bodily life, or find your own sample here. Samples shown in our collection came from our first "sampling event," the ScienceOnline 2011 convention where writers, podcasters and other communicators came to share what they know and, it turns out, a little more. In among these samples are a the species that grow on some of our very favorite science writers.
And Wait...what? Paradox makes smelling belly-buttons a daily habit?
*goes looking for the alcohol and hydrogen peroxide*
This is cool! I wish I was in North Carolina now. :Ohttp://www.wildlifeofyourbody.org/event.htmlThat would be so neat!Personally, I've always liked my microbes.
Belly buttons always make me smile. I wonder if those with pierced navels are less likely to harbor bacteria. I recall reading another study on belly button lint that found that pierced navels tend to have very little to no lint at all. Does that navel hygiene also extend to the microscopic level as well?
I'd be interested in knowing whether or not the belly-button "fauna" is found to vary in any consistent way from region to region
http://www.wildlifeofyourbody.org/index.htmlI thought it was a project worth sharing, and an interesting one. Especially for those of us whose study of science and microbiology has led us to be just a little bit germophobic...
*goes to get the hand sanitizer to cleans his belly button*
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