New SCAMT Project: Citizen Science, Alternative Power Sources And Distributed Lab
ITMO’s SCAMT and Kuban State University (KubSU) launch a citizen science project Internet of Bacteria. Its goal is to collect data on bacteria that produce electric energy, and the soils these inhabit.
About the project
The Internet of Bacteria project offers school students who are interested in soil microbiology, ecological engineering, and biotechnologies to assemble a microbial fuel cell (MFC) according to provided instructions, feed it with a local soil sample, program a microcontroller, and transfer data to a cloud server, thus contributing to the creation of a global map of soil quality in Russia.
The individual research kit for the project will be a sort of an electronic building set with chemical agents for simple experiments.
“The system will be simple and visually comprehensible, and won’t call for any special programming or microbiology skills. What’s more, we want to make it so that school students will get such knowledge in the course of working on the project. The children will install and program the device, and the system will register and transfer data on its own,” explains Andrey Lazukin, graduate of KubSU’s Department of Genetics, Microbiology and Biochemistry and the project’s lead engineer.
Project’s first participants
SCAMT will assemble and mail out the first batch of kits at its own expense. Hundreds of MFCs will be sent to “places of interest”.
“At first, the destinations will have to be a compromise between the areas with soils where we expect to find promising microbial communities, and the regions where there are biological schools, lyceums, and quantoriums with which we can collaborate. Therefore, we won’t be sending MFCs to students’ homes at this stage. We still can’t afford it, but we are planning to,” says Mikhail Kurushkin, a PhD in Chemistry and one of the project’s organizers.
Citizen science is something that has only just begun to develop in Russia. Its goal is to involve people who have no connection with research institutions in research activities. Despite the fact that citizen science data is gathered by regular citizens, it’s being used in serious large-scale research.
“We invited Caren Cooper, one of the pioneers and leaders in the field of citizen science, to the International Advisory Board, and we often call and consult her. Another member of the board is Ioannis Ieropoulos, one of the leaders in the field of research, manufacturing and application of MFCs, a scientist from Great Britain. Both specialists place the focus on erasing the barriers between scientists and the population, and say that we should strive for open science and public outreach,” says Mikhail Kurushkin.