The vision of this national research center, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is to develop a hypothesis-driven, evidence-based approached to understand the built environment microbiome. Our goal is to optimize the design and operation of buildings to promote both human health and environmental sustainability, with an emphasis on green healthcare design.
The BioBE Center partnered with XVIVO to produce an animation visualizing microbes in the built environment a while back and it’s now published on Vimeo. We’re releasing this under the a CC-BY-SA license for use.
Scientific American has a short piece about the BioBE Center’s upcoming study to characterize the human microbial cloud. More to come!
This past September, Sloan-funded biologists Ashley Bateman, James Meadow, Rachel Adams, and Holly Bik met at UC-Berkeley to begin collaboration on an exciting new project!
The past few years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of microbiological studies undertaken in the indoor environment. It seems that these studies have arrived at the same general conclusions regarding microbial richness and diversity, but they also suggest that different processes are structuring microbiological communities differently depending on many variables. We began a meta-analysis of the publicly-available indoor biome data sets to compile and assess the state of current knowledge on the microbiology of the built environment. We hope to use the online QIIME database to analyze 16s and fungal clone data sets from multiple sequencing platforms. This kind of meta-analysis will hopefully help us to answer some of the following questions:
1. Are there consistent patterns for the processes (geography, building type, etc) structuring microbial communities indoors?
2. Can we identify consistent source habitats for different habitats in the BE?
3. Are there similar patterns between fungi and bacteria?
4. How does study design/sequencing method (e.g. clones vs. 454 vs. Illumina data) affect patterns?
5. Related to point 4, a meta-analysis will inform further studies’ experimental design, elucidating where/when/how we currently do not have any/few data (i.e. undeveloped nations, winter, rural communities, fungi in general).
We are hoping to undertake computational analysis in October, once all of our datasets have been put together!
Eric Berlow and Sean Gourley’s recent TED talk entitled “Mapping ideas worth spreading” discusses their application of ecological networks to demonstrate how the catalog of 24,000 TED talks are connected globally. Around minute 5:15 in the video, they begin to talk about how to discover some of the most ‘creative and interesting’ ideas by finding talks that explore a ‘creative remix’ of fields — for example, genetics and cities. Jessica Green’s TEDxPortland talk and other built environment related talks are held up as prime examples of this innovation.
Jessica recently paid a visit to the folks at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to talk about how we can utilize our growing understanding of the built environment microbiome to build healthier, more sustainable buildings. Watch her “What’s Next Health” interview and check out her guest blog post. Also, hidden under the video is a nice infographic about her vision for the future.
Ann Womack will be presenting on the BioBE Center’s recently published paper, “Indoor airborne bacterial communities are influenced by ventilation, occupancy, and outdoor air source”, at the American Association for Aerosol Research Annual Conference just up the road in lovely Portland, OR. Ann’s talk will be part of a special symposium on bioaerosols and is one of several presentations focusing on bioaerosols in the built environment.
James Meadow and Adam Altrichter travelled to Minneapolis for this year’s Ecological Society of America Conference where they each presented work from the last year. James talked about the Roller Derby study in a ‘Community Assembly and Neutral Theory’ session while Adam gave an Ignite talk during an ‘Engineered Ecology’ session.
A new paper just published by members of BioBE is out now, and open access at Indoor Air journal. The study details air samples collected in classrooms at the University of Oregon, and the temporal changes that happen in indoor airborne microbial communities over the course of a week. We found that classrooms that were well ventilated very closely followed changes in the microbial communities outside of the building, but that rooms that were closed off at night and on weekends (the way buildings are often operated) retained a stagnant microbial community until the ventilation was opened up again. The paper also reports on human-associated microbes that are more commonly detected when people are in the room. This paper adds to our growing understanding of the sorts of microbes we encounter in our everyday lives in the built environment, as well as the architectural choices that drive their ecological patterns.
The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) held an exciting meeting focused on investigating evolution of organisms in the built environment, and especially in homes. Three BioBE researchers were in attendance (Ashley Bateman, Gwynne Mhuireach, and James Meadow), and the list of participants included experts in microbial genomics, architecture, building science, ethics, ecology, human evolution, sociology, and invertebrate zoology.
James Meadow just returned from the recent Applied and Environmental Microbiology Gordon Research Conference, held at Mount Holyoke College. He was presenting some brand new exciting results from our recent human microbial cloud sampling project. The talk was part of a Built Environment session, which was led by Kerry Kinney, from University of Texas, and included work presented by Jack Gilbert, from the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. The session was enthusiastically received and we got lots of great feedback from fellow conference attendees.