Delaware Public Media

Explore the human microbiome in new Delaware natural history museum exhibit

Jan 26, 2018

A new exhibit coming to the Delaware Museum of Natural History shows the healthy bacteria inside of you and how it helps you survive.

Trillions of bacteria live inside you. Some can cause disease, but many more can fight it.

The traveling exhibit “Zoo In You: The Human Microbiome” uses bright colors, hands-on activities and fart jokes to teach museumgoers about bacteria, viruses and how complex these ecosystems of microbes can be, the museum's communications director Jennifer Acord said. As the exhibit's title suggests, microbes are like a community, an ecosystem, or a zoo.

“You think of a zoo or an ecosystem where there’s different creatures, different climates, and that’s basically what’s happening in the human body,” Acord said.

The museum is partnering with University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment to bring local flare to the exhibit.

Jennifer Biddle, a UD professor who studies microbes, plans to work with graduate students and bring in some microbial eukaryotes – tiny single-celled creatures that swim in ponds – to the museum in February for people to see through microscopes.

Biddle said microbial organisms are becoming more important in medicine.

“What’s coming especially in modern medicine is the use of microbial organisms on you and in you to understand how your body is working and how you respond to drugs and how you can control your metabolism,” Biddle said.

She continued, “We’re realizing we actually work as a superorganism. It’s not just us. It’s us and our microbes.”

The exhibit opens Saturday and runs through May 6. It is in both English and Spanish.