Our research story



Far-reaching science with far-reaching applications.

MicroBlitz is a citizen science project where crowd-sourced science is building a state-wide map detailing the biodiversity and health of our environment using DNA sequencing to identify the biodiversity and abundance of microbes in our soils.

From the UK to Australia’s largest state.

Following the success of a unique environmental survey in the UK, where Professor Andy Whiteley led a team to map the microbial diversity of soils across the UK, he was awarded a WA Premier’s Fellowship and brought his research to UWA where he created MicroBlitz. While the sheer size and scale of the MicroBlitz project in WA makes it unique, Professor Andy has extensive experience in microbial DNA sequencing, surveying and research.

Together, we are creating a baseline map.

Now in the second phase of the project, in May 2018 Professor Andy and his team released the results of the first samples collected and new results are regularly added to the map. One of the main aims of this second phase is to build on the previous efforts of WA citizen scientists and to complete the WA Microbe Map by strategically targeting those areas of WA not already sampled. But even with a wide-spread community of citizen scientists throughout the state, a project of this scale is only possible due to recent advancements in biotechnology and computer processing to deliver the results.  We would also like to acknowledge that the project received grant funding from the Australian Government.

Microbes, microscopic organisms with huge potential.

Microorganisms, or microbes, are small. Really small. Usually just a single cell. And yet they 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:

  • Have a symbiotic relationship with plants that directly affects agricultural health and productivity
  • Can assist in the removal of toxins from the environment
  • Play a key role in regulating greenhouse gases, such as CO2, methane and nitrous oxide.

The knowledge and insights we are gaining through the MicroBlitz 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.

Healthy soils grow healthy food.

Many agricultural, mining and urban development practices have caused damage to some of our most ancient landscapes, often polluting and destroying our pristine habitats. In parallel with exponential human population growth and the adoption of industrial styles of agriculture, marked increases in a number of diseases, particularly in the Western world have been noted and there is a growing body of evidence of a direct link between diet and disease, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Healthy soils grow healthy food with the aid of the natural microbial processes that ensure correct uptake of nutrients and the exclusion of toxins, and scientists now believe that a key action to reverse our current health crisis is restoring the integrity of our food. To help us find out more about the links between soils and human health, specifically gut health, the MicroBlitz project has teamed with the Marshall Centre. These are only a few of the reasons that makes our MicroBlitz research so relevant here in WA.

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. As a MicroBlitzer you’ll help fill in our map by collecting 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.


Find out more about UWA and our home at the School of Earth and Environment, or learn more about the exciting MicroBlitz program, whether you want to meet our team or join them and become a MicroBlitzer.