A big project
helping to tackle
big environmental issues.
Climate change. Food security. Water quality. These are some of the biggest issues of our time – environmental issues that MicroBlitz will enable us to monitor, understand and combat. But how do we begin to tackle such big sustainability issues, especially in a state as vast as Western Australia (WA)? By thinking small!
Microbes: Microscopic organisms with huge potential.
Microorganisms, or microbes, are small. Really small. Usually just a single cell. And yet they are hugely important to the health and our understanding of WA’s ecology and environment.
That’s what the MicroBlitz project is all about. Become a MicroBlitzer and you’ll be part of a community of citizen scientists. As a MicroBlitzer you’ll take soil samples that our team at UWA will analyse, sequencing microbial DNA to create a ‘baseline’ map – a benchmark or point of reference for the health of WA’s environment.
The knowledge and insights we gain will inform a host of initiatives addressing key sustainability issues. Together, we’ll be helping to improve everything from agricultural practices, to mine-site rehabilitation, to climate change monitoring and regulation, potentially across Australia and beyond.
Why study microbes and their DNA?
Microbes are fundamental to life as we know it. Microbes were the first organisms to colonise our planet and, if removed, all life on Earth would cease to exist. As the most abundant and diverse organisms in the world, they also:
- Play a key role in regulating greenhouse gases,
such as CO2, methane and nitrous oxide
- Can assist in the removal of toxins from
- Have a symbiotic relationship with plants that
directly affects agricultural health and productivity.
In short, microbes play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance within the environment. Despite this, we know very little about them. In terms of understanding their diversity, patterns of distribution and functions, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Compared to our understanding of the genetics of everything we see above the ground, microbes, until now, have remained something of a mystery, hidden in the soil.
Understanding the dynamic effect of microbes on the environment.
Western Australia is a celebrated biodiversity hotspot, but it’s under threat. Many agricultural and mining practices have caused damage to some of our most ancient landscapes, often polluting our pristine habitats. That’s what makes our MicroBlitz research so relevant here in WA, where:
- 20 million hectares have already been cleared for agriculture and urban development
- In line with the world's predicted population growth of 50% to 9.5 billion by 2050, the Australian Bureau of Statistics projects that WA's population will grow from the current 2.5 million to somewhere between 4.8 and 6.3 million by 2050.
- Mining is the main driver in our economy
- There are more than 5,000 existing mineral tenements in the Great Western Woodland alone (accounting for 10 million of WA's 16 million woodland hectares), with 2,000 more pending.
The sheer scale of the MicroBlitz DNA sequencing survey will enable us to establish what’s out there and how it affects our environment. We believe that the more we learn about the nature and extent of microbial influence, the more effective we can be in developing sustainable strategies and solutions to support our ever-growing population in an ever-changing environment.
Every citizen scientist is important.
As a MicroBlitz citizen scientist, your role in this research is vital. Only by engaging local people like you - volunteers who share our passion for WA's environment - can we collect enough samples across Western Australia’s 250 million hectares within a timeframe that will enable the research to be truly meaningful and useful.
The issues we face are difficult ones, but MicroBlitz is your opportunity to be part of the solution. Find out more about our research and how to get involved. It’s easy to become a MicroBlitzer and, by joining forces as citizen scientists, we can learn and discover so much together.