We are working with scientists, educators, nature and bacteria enthusiasts of all stripes to sample and study the species (mostly bacteria) living in belly buttons as a measure of what is happening on our skin more generally. Once your belly button connected you to your mother. Now it, like the rest of your skin, connects you to the microbes on which you depend for your health, well-being and really even survival (for more about your wild life, see www.yourwildlife.org where we are constantly adding new stories).
This is a brief description of how the project works – if you have other questions that are not answered here, send us an email at email@example.com. We apologize in advance if it takes us a little while to get back to some questions. We are working on FAQ sheets to address frequent questions. Sometimes we know the answers, other times no one does, which is what it makes it so fun to explore.
FIRST and most importantly, if you would like a sampling kit (or several), you can sign up here using our on-line form. We will send you the sampling kit in the mail, and when you have taken your sample you then send the kit back to us.
EACH KIT consists a single vial, a data entry form, an instruction sheet and a participation waiver. When you return to the vial to us we will process the sample by searching for the genes of different bacteria species found in your belly button. You have a very high chance of hosting species new to science. We are searching for those species, but also for patterns in terms of what determines just which species are on you. To help us understand what affects the species living on human skin, our questionnaire includes questions about your ethnicity, washing habits and other attributes to allow us to understand if any of those factors have a big influence on which species live on you. And then, of course, we will want to know whether you are an innie or an outie.
COLLECTING the samples is very easy and quick and requires no prior experience at navel-gazing, just an interest in discovery, whether personal or scientific.
TO SUBMIT your samples you just send the kits to the following address with the data sheet filled in and (hopefully!) a vial filled with bacteria species.
The Belly Button Biodiversity Team c/o Dr. Jiri Hulcr
Department of Biology
North Carolina State University
127 David Clark Labs, Box 7617
Raleigh, NC 27695 USA
RESULTS will be disseminated via our interactive website where you will be able to search for your collection and view a list of what was found on you. You will also be able to see what has been collected from other participants as a function of what region they live in.
COST will be free for the first 1000 individuals thanks to a grant for scientific outreach from the Howard Hughes Foundation. After those first thousand individuals sign up, a modest fee will be charged to cover the cost of genetic work, mailing and equipment, or at least until further funding is identified.
THANK YOU all for your interest, and please don’t hesitate to sign up to participate or send us feedback in an email. If you’re also interested in finding out more about the wild life that lives in your own backyard, visit another citizen project site.
The Belly Button Team