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Indoor Ecosystems

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Science  10 Feb 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6069, pp. 648-650
DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6069.648

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Few scientists have tried to systematically assess the biodiversity of interior as opposed to exterior spaces. Ecologists at North Carolina State University have mounted a large citizen-science survey-the first of its kind-to compile microbial data from thousands of homes in different parts of the world in order to explore whether the microbial makeup of homes differs depending on location, the density of the surrounding population, or whether a home is freestanding or an apartment. The goal is to understand why different microbes are found in different places and the extent to which various species are associated with people's lifestyles, geography, and climate. In work that blends microbial ecology, indoor air science, and building engineering, researchers have also begun scouring classrooms, offices, and hospitals for microbial life and analyzing the factors that affect human exposure to it.

  • * Courtney Humphries is a freelance writer in Boston and author of Superdove.

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