Why it’s important

A big project
helping to tackle
big environmental issues.

Food security.Water quality.Climate change. 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 play a hugely important role in developing our understanding of WA’s ecology and environment and how the health of our soils affects agricultural factors such as productivity and food security.

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 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.

The knowledge and insights we are gaining 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:

  • 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.

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, 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.

These are only a few of the reasons makes our MicroBlitz research so relevant here in WA.

The sheer scale of the MicroBlitz DNA sequencing survey will enable us to establish what’s out there and how it affects our environment and ultimately our own health. 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. To see where we still need to collect samples from or explore our interactive microbial map.

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.