Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
Researchers from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences have discovered which bacteria species are most commonly found in our bellybuttons, but have still not discovered what governs which species will be found on which people. These are the first published findings of the Belly Button Biodiversity project led by NC State’s Dr. Rob Dunn in partnership with scientists from the Museum’s new Nature Research Center.
“The common, abundant species are from a relatively small number of evolutionary lines, indicating that they have evolved traits that make them at home on human skin,” says Dunn, who is co-author of a paper describing the work. “However, we are still trying to figure out what determines which of these species are found in a given person’s belly button. We’ve looked at sex, age, ethnicity and a number of other factors – none of them are predictive of which species live in that person.”
The researchers launched this project, in large part, because it has become increasingly clear in recent years that the collection of organisms on our skin forms our first line of defense against pathogens.
“We know that without these microbes our immune systems won’t function properly,” Dunn says. “In fact, this collection of microbes must have a certain composition – must form a certain microbial ecosystem – in order for our immune system to function properly. This work is a significant step toward helping us understand which species are the most important players in those ecosystems.”
This research project is a perfect example of the Nature Research Center’s citizen science initiative, which is geared toward getting everyone involved in science. “Of course, we recognized that (almost) everyone has a belly button,” says co-author and NRC Director Dr. Meg Lowman, “so this project was not only inclusive of all visitors, but also helped teach them about the challenges and techniques behind the collection of scientific data. And who would have guessed that so many microbes live inside your belly button … and are beneficial!”
The researchers swabbed the bellybuttons of 66 study participants, and then processed the samples using high-throughput genetic sequencing to identify each of the phylotypes present in a sample and how prevalent each phylotype was. For the purposes of this study, a phylotype was defined as an organism whose sequence in the 16s rDNA gene (essentially the microbial fingerprint gene) varied from other organisms by at least three percent.
The researchers found thousands of phylotypes, but only a handful were found on a significant number of people. The vast majority of phylotypes were only found once or twice. Images of some of the phylotypes are available at http://www.wildlifeofyourbody.org/?page_id=1307.
Specifically, the study identified 2,368 different phylotypes – including, for the first time, three phylotypes of Archaea – but only eight phylotypes were found on at least 70 percent of the study participants. And those eight phylotypes were also among the most abundant – meaning that when they were present, there were a LOT of them. In fact, those eight phylotypes accounted for almost 50 percent of the total abundance of bacteria in the samples.
Altogether, the researchers found that the average bellybutton among study participants contains 67 different phylotypes of bacteria. And many of those bacteria were quite unexpected – including some normally found only in marine environments or in foreign soils.
The paper, “A Jungle in There: Bacteria in Belly Buttons are Highly Diverse, but Predictable,” is published online in PLOS-ONE (A PDF of the paper is available here.). Lead author of the paper is Dr. Jiri Hulcr, who did his post-doctoral work at NC State and is now based at the University of Florida. Co-authors include A. Latimer of the University of California Davis; Dr. Noah Fierer and J.B. Henley of the University of Colorado; Dr. Andrea Lucky of the University of Florida; Nina Rountree, a former undergrad at NC State; and Dr. Meg Lowman of NC State and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The research was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Wednesday, September 14th, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — September 13, 2011
Contact:Emelia.Cowans@ncdenr.gov; 919.733.7450, ext. 305
BugFest Critter Cook-off to feature the culinary stylings of local chefs from the Angus Barn and Sono
(RALEIGH) — The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ annual BugFest Critter Cook-off, the official start to BugFest 2011, kicks off on Friday, September 16 at 11 a.m. in the Treasures Hall of the Museum. This Iron-Chef style media preview has been a crowd pleaser for more than ten years. Chef Jim Long, Executive Sous Chef at the Angus Barn will compete against Chef Michael Lee, Executive Chef of Sono Sushi for the title of BugFest Critter Cook-off Champion 2011! Media and the public are invited to attend.
Each chef has 50 minutes to create an appetizer, entrée, dessert and mystery dish using mealworms (mealworm beetle larvae), wax worms (caterpillar larvae of wax moths), crickets, super worms (darkling beetle larvae) and a “mystery” bug. Each dish will be judged on taste, originality and presentation. The chef whose buggy grub wows our panel of celebrity judges earns the title of BugFest Critter Cook-off Champion 2011!
Returning this year is a panel of esteemed, seasoned bug eaters! Steve Daniels, ABC-11; Karen Clark, Foxy 107/104; Penn Holderness, NBC-17 and Director of the Museum’s new wing, the Nature Research Center, Dr. Meg Lowman are indeed in for a treat! Zack Lemann, Staff Entomologist at the Audubon Insectarium and a judge from last year, will be our special guest. Lemann considers himself an entomophagist, a person well-versed in the world of bug dining, and will give several bug-cooking demonstrations for the public on Saturday at BugFest!
BugFest 2011, the largest single-day bug centered event in the country, takes place on Saturday, September 17 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. with free admission and activities. Friday’s Critter Cook-off will last about an hour, with opportunities for the media to interview chefs and judges and sample the critter concoctions.
BugFest Critter Cook-off 2011
Michael Lee, Executive Chef, Sono, Raleigh
Michael Lee is the Chef/Owner of Sono Japanese Restaurant in downtown Raleigh. He started his apprenticeship in 1994 under a master Washoku chef. Working at local restaurants even during his high school years has helped him to learn fast and adapt to the unique style of Japanese cooking . After years of training and working as an executive chef to help open many successful restaurants around the country, Chef Michael opened Sono in 2007. Since then he has been working hard to adapt and create cuisines that are unique and local to satisfy the taste buds of the triangle
Jim Long, Executive Sous Chef, Angus Barn, Raleigh
Jim Long is a 1992 graduate of Wake Technical Community College’s culinary program and has worked at the Angus Barn for nearly 20 years. He’s been Sous Chef to Iron-Chef Walter Royal for 15 years. Royal defeated Iron-Chef Cat Cora in 2006.
Dr. Meg Lowman, Director, Nature Research Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Meg Lowman pioneered the science of canopy ecology. For 30 years, she has designed hot-air balloons and walkways for treetop exploration to solve mysteries in the world’s forests, with special expertise on the links between insect pests and ecosystem health. Meg is affectionately called the “Mother of Canopy Research” as one of the first scientists to explore this “eighth continent.”
Steve Daniels, Anchor, ABC-11
Steve Daniels just can’t get enough of those buggy dishes, returning as a judge for the 3rd year. Steve is co-anchor of the ABC-TV 11 Eyewitness News. Prior to coming to the Triangle, he traveled the country and the world reporting stories for “Dateline NBC.” Steve has also been a contributor on the “Today” show, “NBC Nightly News,” MSNBC and CNBC. He’s won seven Emmys and several other national awards for outstanding investigative reporting.
Karen Clark, News & Public Affairs, Foxy 107/104, Radio One Raleigh
Karen Clark is a graduate of the School of Journalism at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before she began working with Foxy 107/104, Karen pursued a commercial broadcast career, and then moved into the music industry as the Promotions Manager with Columbia Records. After seven years in the music industry, Karen started Something Borrowed, Something Blue, a wedding and event planning company based in Raleigh.
Penn Holderness, Anchor, NBC-17
Penn Holderness is a Durham native and graduate of Durham Jordan High School. Penn went to college at the University of Virginia and majored in philosophy, but took a crack at journalism after graduation as an intern for the WTVD ABC11 sports department. His first on-air job in was in Grand Junction, Colorado, then Penn moved to Orlando for five years. He hosted three seasons of "Designer Finals" on HGTV and hosted a college hoops show on CSTV with former Tar Heel Coach Matt Doherty. Most recently, Penn worked as a video essayist for ABC and ESPN while living in New York. Penn, his wife and two kids are thrilled to be back in the Triangle, closer to their families who reside in the area.
Zack Lemann, Visitor Programs Manager for the Audubon Insectarium
Zack Lemann, a former BugFest Critter Cook-off chef, is lending his expertise this year as a judge. Zack has appeared on numerous TV programs, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Maury Povich Show, and The Today Show, introducing the public to his unique passion of bug cooking. Zack travels the world as a “bug chef,” spreading the word about a diet of the planet’s most plentiful source of protein.
Saturday, January 15th, 2011
The Pygmy three-toed sloth is on the list of one of the world’s most endangered animals. TREE Foundation has supported the training of canopy students by Meg Lowman,
who in turn taught Bryson Voirin, who in turn has been a long-standing TREE research associate and devoted much of his research career to sloth ecology. At popular request, TREE Foundation has established a special fund to support canopy research on sloths, and this fund is launched with a special music DVD (see below) with all proceeds dedicated to sloth research and conservation.
Stay tuned for updates on sloth research and conservation on this site!
“MOOZIKK” COLLABORATION OF MUSICIANS TO RAISE FUNDS AND AWARENESS FOR THE CONSERVATION OF THE PYGMY THREE TOED SLOTH
Martin Roberts (frontman of south UK unsigned indie dream-pop band PowderedCows) is an unsigned musician from Christchurch UK who makes music influenced by animals, birds, the outdoors, and his voluntary conservation work he gets involved with, such as otter surveying and looking after rescued bats.
All proceeds from sales of PowderedCows music go to various animal conservation charities. PowderedCows last album ‘attack of pipastrelles’ raised money for the UK’s Bat Conservation Trust.
Martin has recently started getting musicians he knows and is a fan of to submit tracks of them playing acoustic (just guitar and vocals) and then he has been adding his sound and instruments over the top. Martin will then put all the tracks onto a CD to raise money for conservation and awareness of the critically endangered three toed sloth.
“This is our last chance to save the pygmy three toed sloth – it’s like a living version of the sad story of the dodo, but, now we have a chance to do something to stop it becoming extinct, and we must take this chance now before it’s too late” [Martin Roberts]
Martin already has various musicians from the UK and USA (such as Jason Lytle from the band ‘Grandaddy’) submitting music for this album, and awaiting to hear back from more musicians, media, and like minded people..
This album is not going to be on any label, and all proceeds will go to help The Tree Foundation fund sloth expert Bryson Voirin help save the pygmy three toed sloth. Bryson works closely with The Tree Foundation who work hard on conservation projects such as helping this sloth species.
Here’s more about Bryson
Facebook group page for more details about “Moozikk”:
Thanks very much for your time and consideration
Martin Roberts (of the band PowderedCows www.myspace.com/powderedcows)
Sunday, September 5th, 2010
Water bugs make a splash at BugFest 2010!
New hours, new footprint, new activities, plus the return of the Alberti Flea Circus
(RALEIGH) — Yes. Shrimp and crawfish are bugs too and aquatic bugs swim front and center as the 2010 “theme bug” for BugFest — the biggest one-day bug-centric event of its kind in the country at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. On Saturday, September 11 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., all four floors of the Museum, as well as Bicentennial Plaza, Jones St. and Edenton St. will be transformed into a buggy wonderland where visitors can turn fear into fascination and it’s all FREE. As always, the Café Insecta returns, and this year, with more variety than ever. Chefs from Raleigh’s own Spize Café, Acro Café, Market Restaurant, Locopops, Tijuana Flats and PoshNosh Catering will create a host of free bug-filled dishes for everyone to enjoy! Traditional food and drink are also available for sale. The Museum Store will also be selling two new chocolate bars created specifically for this event by Escazu Artisan Chocolates of Raleigh. Hallot Parson, chocolate maker and co-founder, has created the Bamboo Worm Bar, featuring bamboo worms from Thailand and the Big Butt Ant Bar, featuring queen ants from Colombia!
Many of BugFest’s educational stations can now be found on Jones St., which will be blocked off between Salisbury and Wilmington Streets. There, visitors can find the KidZone and a variety of bug stations hosted by bug-experts on many species of arthropod. The KidZone will feature the Roachingham 500, where you can “bet” on the fastest Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches in the land; bee-bearding demonstrations, the Arthropod Olympics, Bug Bounce, Cameron the Caterpillar (large walk-through caterpillar shaped tunnel), face painting (small fee) and “Buggy” Story Time.
Jim Alberti’s Flea Circus will be located at the other end of the plaza and the main stage on Edenton St. will feature musical performances from the North Carolina Theatre, bug-cooking demonstrations by Revolution Restaurant in Durham and live music all day long and into the evening portion of BugFest, also known as the “Evening Insectival” (5 to 7 p.m.) Other Insectival activities include the “Stag Beetle Battles,” the amazing Exentrik acrobats and at 5 p.m. a showing of “Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo,” an independent film about bugs and culture in Japan.
Special presenters at BugFest include Dr. Margaret “Meg” Lowman, the Museum’s new director of the Nature Research Center, now under construction on Jones St., west of the Museum. Dr. Lowman, also known as the “mother of canopy research” will give two talks entitled, “Bugs Are Us” and “Stalking Bugs By Hot-Air Balloon” in the Museum’s 1st floor auditorium. Also in the auditorium, visitors can see “Bugged,” a documentary about the Asian Long horned Beetle that invaded the United States in the mid 1980s and is currently listed in the top 100 of the World’s worst invasive alien species.
New this year, BugFest will serve as the official kickoff to the North Carolina Science Festival, running for two weeks starting September 11 – 26. Log onto www.ncsciencefestival.org for a full schedule of fun, educational activities throughout the state.
Terminix Co. of Eastern North Carolina is the Lead Sponsor of BugFest. Additional sponsors include Armstrong Cricket Farm, Bruegger’s Bagels, Caribou Coffee, Chick-fil-A (Falls Village and Capital Crossings stores), Clif Bar, Mitchell’s Catering, Pepsi Bottling Ventures, and Whole Foods Market. All BugFest activities are free (unless otherwise noted on-site). For information call 919-733-7450, ext. 502 or 523, or visit Bugfest.org.
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 West Jones St., Raleigh, documents and interprets natural history of the state of North Carolina through exhibits, research, collections, publications and educational programming. Find more information online at naturalsciences.org. Hours: Mon-Sat., 9am-5pm and Sun., Noon-5pm. General admission is free. The Museum is an agency of the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Dee Freeman, Secretary.
UPDATE 8/13/10: Article in localtechwire.com about Bugfest.
Friday, October 16th, 2009
The Rolex Awards for Enterprise: Young Laureates Programme Press Release:
GENEVA, September 30, 2009 – Ten leading international figures in science, the environment and exploration will select the first five winners of the recently launched Rolex Awards for Enterprise: Young Laureates Programme, Rolex announced today.
A geographically and professionally diverse group, the inaugural jury for the Young Laureates Programme will meet at Rolex headquarters in Geneva in early March 2010 to select the five budding pioneers between the ages of 18 and 30 who will be the first Young Laureates. The winners will be announced in April 2010.
Full Press Release
Sunday, September 28th, 2008
On September 18, 2008, Congress passed important “No Child Left Inside” legislation that will fund environmental education programs at a national level. As Vice President of the Ecological Society of America overseeing the portfolio of education and human resources, Dr. Lowman worked with the ESA policy staff to create this press release last year. It was based on an earlier editorial that Lowman wrote in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment in fall 2006.
Wednesday, August 31st, 2005
Dr. Margaret D. Lowman – “Canopy Meg” — Awarded $75,000 to Create Forest Canopy Exhibit
Sarasota, FL / 31 August, 2005 – Dr. Margaret D. Lowman, Director of Environmental Initiatives and Professor of Biology & Environmental Studies at the New College of Florida, was recently awarded a $75,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant is for the creation of a traveling exhibit entitled “Out on a Limb – Forest Canopies,” which will provide public education about forest biodiversity, how treetops provide energy for all life, and the importance of forest conservation both locally and globally. The exhibit will also illustrate the difficulties scientists face when trying to access canopies for study.
Dr. Lowman’s exhibit will utilize a mix of media including a rain forest diorama, scaled models of scientists exploring the canopy, photographs, and activities for interactive learning and play. When complete, the “Out on a Limb – Forest Canopies” exhibit will be on display in various community venues throughout southwest Florida.
Canopy research provides a highly visual, fun and interesting, and exploratory approach to scientific inquiry that can be effectively communicated and easily comprehended by the general public and students. To learn more about inviting the exhibit into your community or school, please contact Dr. Lowman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Lowman is internationally recognized for her pioneering research in forest canopy ecology, and has explored all three major rain forests of the world — Africa, Australia/Asia, and the Neotropics (including the Amazon). She is the author of over 95 peer-reviewed publications and four books. Dr. Lowman’s recent autobiography, Life in the Treetops, received a cover review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review; she recently completed Forest Canopies – a definitive textbook for forest canopy ecology.
Known to many as “Canopy Meg,” Dr. Lowman has conducted global conservation work in Africa, Samoa, the Amazon basin, and Australia, and her education outreach has included distance learning via satellite to millions of children throughout the world. For more information about “Canopy Meg” and forest canopies, visit www.canopymeg.com
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