Dr. Rob Dunn

What Lives Under Your Bed?

Unknown creatures are lurking in the dark corners of your house—even under your bed.

Scary? Not to biologist Dr. Rob Dunn. It sounds like the premise of a horror movie, but it’s a scientific fact: We share our homes with a teeming host of bacteria, fungi and other microscopic organisms.

“We have scary things living around us but also lots and lots of beneficial ones,” says Dunn, author of The Wild Lives of Our Bodies. “What we want to learn is where those different kinds of species are and how the way that you live is influencing those species.”

Dunn needs citizen scientists willing to shine a light on the creatures living in their houses. He’s recruiting volunteers who will collect samples in the kitchen, under the bed and from other selected spots as part of the Wild Life Of Your Home project.

“You then seal the kit back up, send it back to us and we’ll use genetic techniques to see which species of fungus, bacteria and even insects are living around you,” he says.

By studying samples from across the country, Dunn hopes to construct a picture of the microscopic universe in our homes. Dunn’s lab is also conducting the world’s first ant census, enrolling amateur naturalists in the effort to capture and identify thousands of species.