Wolfpack Citizen Science Challenge Spring 2018

On our campus there lives a microbe that can poop gold…
we just don't know where it is.

It almost certainly sounds made up, but it isn’t. A bacterial species of the genus Delftia can precipitate gold out of solution. We know the genes that Delftia uses to accomplish this incredible feat. But here is the rub—we don’t really have a clue where Delftia lives, how many species of Delftia there might be, or how important this gold pooping power is for Delftia. To answer these questions, we first have to find Delftia. We need broad samples from across campus, including creative samples we might not, on our own, even think to take. That's why we need your help!

The Project

Volunteers in teams will obtain kits from the library and take samples around campus. Those samples will go to the NCSU Biotechnology Program, where the DNA will be extracted and we'll target the gold pooping gene to identify Delftia from all the other microbes in the sample. All that DNA extracting and reaction setup will be a lot of work, and that's where a special volunteer comes in—the BitBot! The BitBot is a specialized robot that students in Dr. Carlos Goller's high-throughput discovery class will program to detect Delftia. Then we'll take those samples and sequence the gold genes at the Genomic Sciences Laboratory on campus.

Once all this is done we'll finally have some robust data to help us answer our questions. Our citizen scientists will work with Dr. Goller and the NCSU Libraries to conduct bioinformatics and GIS analysis of the data, which we'll present to campus at the end of the semester.


Get Involved!

Your participation in this project will contribute data about the often overlooked yet fascinating microbes in our surroundings. Where will YOU find Delftia?

We've collaborated with SciStarter to help collect project metadata — the data about the soil and goo you will help us collect. Go to our project page at https://scistarter.com/delftia to register to participate, find participant instructions, and submit your data! Sample collection is open only to NC State students, staff, and faculty. You will need your Unity ID and password to register and access project materials.

Don’t have a Unity ID but still interested in participating? Our events are free and open to the public. Join us for lively presentations, hands-on demos, and live data analysis.


We’ve already had a lot of interest from people interested in participating in the challenge, but we can only process so many samples in a single semester. If we end up collecting more samples than we can process right now for the Challenge, we’ll freeze the remainder and finish analyzing them another semester. Who knows, if the discoveries we make raise new questions we could use those samples to learn even more. We’ll keep everyone updated on the status of their samples, but if you want them processed as part of the Challenge make sure you submit them promptly.


Get updates on the Wolfpack Citizen Science Challenge and other campus citizen science projects by signing up for the citsci-ncsu listserv, and share on social media using the hashtag #WolfpackCitSci.

If you have questions about the challenge, contact Danica Lewis at  danica_lewis@ncsu.edu.