Households of families harbour dust, which is comprised of particles of fibers and skin and many other biological components including pollen, parts of arthropods and various microscopic organisms. These nutrient-rich substances serve as a substrate for mites and moulds, many of which are severe allergens. Some information exists about the diversity of bacteria and fungi in dust in US homes (doi:10.1073/pnas.1420815112), but information about other organisms and from the entire world is almost lacking (doi:10.1073/pnas.1000454107).
The FunHome citizen science project extends from another public project focused on homes in USA (yourwildlife.org), which has received abundant public feedback and resulted in international scientific publications. The FunHome project is initiated by leading researchers in microbial ecology, with an objective to describe the biodiversity of microbes, plants and animals in household dust across the globe. By using DNA-based methods for identification, scientists aim to determine the global distribution patterns of dust-associated organisms with a focus on particularly toxin-producing species.
Hereby, the project leaders invite volunteers to contribute to a global understanding about the biological composition of dust in the home environment. Participants are provided simple protocols for collecting and storing and posting dust samples. The DNA from dust is analysed in a single central laboratory in the University of Tartu, Estonia. The results are communicated to participants over the web after major analysis steps.