Dr. Van Den Wymelenberg, Biology and the Built Environment Center PI and Co-Director, is excited to announce that the Center has secured another two years of funding from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and their Microbiology of the Built Environment (MoBE) program. Van Den Wymelenberg stated, “we are honored to have been awarded a final BioBE Center renewal. This investment will help us transition to an alternate funding model that aims to progress this important field through both basic science and applied research. The BioBE Center’s vision is to conduct research and apply this new MoBE knowledge in ways that will optimize the design and operation of buildings and public spaces to promote both human health and environmental sustainability.”
In 2010, The BioBE center was formally implemented with funding from the Sloan Foundation MoBE program. The Sloan Foundation vision was that we would establish a multidisciplinary center to conduct innovative research on the built environment, while training early-career scientists, and promote the importance of this field to improve the quality of life for people. For seven years, BioBE has brought together architects, microbiologists, ecologists, snd other researchers at the University of Oregon and a number of collaborating institutions. The Center was launched by Dr. Jessica Green, Dr. Brendan Bohanan, and Professor G.Z. “Charlie Brown”. Co-PIs at the Center have included Dr. Rolf Halden at Arizona State University, Dr. Erica Hartmann at Northwestern University, and Dr. Curtis Huttenhower at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. The Center has also collaborated with Dr. Jonathan Eisen of UC-Davis in support of public outreach through microBE.net.
Previous BioBE awards have produced 16 peer-reviewed journal publications, over 80 conference and media outlet presentations, and trained over 20 researchers. In May 2017, BioBE helped to launch the Institute for Health & the Built Environment and a knowledge-exchange industry/research consortium. We will be holding Consortium meetings at least annually, with the next meeting planned for early 2018. Going forward, we’ll be furthering our collaboration with the Eisen Lab to develop a sustainable outreach platform, building on microBE.net, and anticipate teaching a joint seminar series in which both architecture and biology faculty present.
With this Sloan funding renewal, we plan to progress the basic scientific research which has helped elucidate the ecological dynamics of microorganisms in the built environment, that will be the foundation for applied scientific research moving forward. Over the next two years, we will be conducting several projects to test, among other things, the effect of air, light, humidity, and materials on the indoor microbiome. We are currently building Scalar Airflow Microcosms to determine whether microbial communities will assemble in dust differently when air from different microbial colonization sources (outdoors, indoors, or both) is provided to sterilized dust under different humidity levels. Similarly, we will be utilizing existing scalar “lightboxes” to quantify the changes in microbial community structure and viability over time in response to diurnal cycles of solar radiation exposure under different conditions.
We also have a project underway conducting room scale materials tests (wood, painted drywall, glass/concrete, strawbale) in our “climate chamber” to improve our understanding of the role that building materials have on microbial community structure, assembly, and functional profiles. Beginning with microbial community mapping of indoor spaces under different conditions, we are also developing mathematical models of indoor microbiome dynamics to characterize how spatial properties of real buildings relate to microbial population dynamics.