Pilot Citizen Science Study of Distributed Domestic Water Heater Microbiology Diversity

The Project
Presently, there is a growing interest in the biogeography of microorganisms. By looking at the genetic differences from isolates of similar microbes from across the globe, researchers are currently trying to understand the degree to which populations of microbes are isolated and whether this isolation suggests an allopatric speciation model for prokaryotes.

We propose to conduct a citizen science pilot study of microbial diversity in water heaters to both:
1. access the feasibility of basing a citizen science project on field microbiology, and
2. generate a first image of the biogeographic distribution of thermophilic microorganisms
across the United States.

We are currently recruiting two to three households from each state. Participants will perform a series of steps
to acquire a water sample from their kitchen tap and answer about 20 questions. The entire process will take
about 30 minutes. We ask that participants be non-science households with children. Friends, colleagues, or neighbors are
potential samplers. Please help us identify households in your state.

If you know of a household who would like to participate, please fill out our simple web form at

or contact:
Heather Nelson
Penn State Astrobiology Education/Public Outreach Coordinator

Thank you!

See our project flyer (.pdf format)