Evolution of the Indoor Biome

This month I have the opportunity to participate in my first NESCent workshop. I’m excited about this workshop because it will allow me to push my research in a new direction while building collaborations with an outstanding group of researchers, and not all of them are biologists, either.

The workshop is called Evolution of the Indoor Environment. We’ll spend three days in Durham, NC discussing the built environment ecosystem—what it is, who’s in it, how it works, and how it evolves. This will hopefully be a catalyst for developing a new framework to understand the species we intimately interact with, the species in our homes.

And even though the workshop is focused on the indoor environment, we’ll also be considering the effects from outdoors. Home and community gardens, and even full-scale commercial urban farms (for example, Brooklyn Grange) are not indoors but they are a part of the built environment. I’d like to explore the possibility that urban agriculture—from the smallest window box of herbs to commercial farms—presents a unique opportunity to manage built environments and direct evolutionary and public health outcomes. How does the outdoor built environment impact the community composition of the indoor environment? Can we manipulate urban environments through agriculture and gardening to manage the evolutionary trajectory of the species within the community? And even closer to my own research interests, urban agroecosystems are likely more fragmented than their rural counterparts. How does this fragmentation impact the small populations of beneficial and harmful organisms found in urban farms and gardens? My own research questions have always been motivated by this tension between wildlife, humans, and society.

The workshop is being run by Rob Dunn (North Carolina State Univeristy), Jonathan Eisen (The Institute for Genomic Research), Kerry Kinney (University of Texas-Austin), and Craig McClain (NESCent). You can read more about the workshop and the other participants over on the Your Wild Life blog. Expect more blog posts here about my experience at the workshop and plenty of tweets while it's going on.