Citizen Science Experiment

Here's a part of our project that you can join in with!

As you know, finding the elusive polystyrene eating micro-organisms is the first challenge of the project and this is where members of the public can become ‘Citizen Scientist’. As strains of bacteria that degrade polystyrene have been found in the soil, using high density polystyrene as their sole carbon source (click here for a scientific paper), we're going to try and see if we can find anything naturally occurring, growing on expanded polystyrene by getting everyone involved.

To get involved all you need is the University of Leicester environmental sampling pack, which can be bought from a team member or here on the Blog. In the kit, you will find a strip of expanded polystyrene in a self-seal bag (for sending it back to us in), experiment protocol, a risk assessment and a stamped, addressed envelope for returning the samples back to us. With the kit you can then bury your sampling strip wherever you like be that your allotment, garden, flower bed or plant pot leaving it for a few months for bacteria to grow and then send it back to us.

The cost of the kits and processing will be offset by a contribution of £2 when bought from one of the team members. You can however purchase here on our Blog through the PayPal button on the left for a extra 50pence postage to send the kit to your address.

Unfortunately this experiment is UK only due to time and postage constraints.
If you experience any problems with the PayPal button, need a helping hand, want to buy multiple kits to increase your chances of finding the microbe, or wish to buy using a alternate method please don't hesitate to email us at

If you are viewing by the Mobile Blogger site, here is the link to buy vie Paypal

Full instructions are provided with the sample kit, and you can watch an instructional video below or on our Youtube channel:

What’s in it for me?
Once we receive the samples back we will culture the bacteria that will, hopefully, have grown on the strip using the carbon locked within as their source. If your strip is successful, you can get your contribution recognized in a published research article – Citizen Scientists whose samples harbour the most polystyrene-eaters will be invited to be authors on the paper reporting the team’s findings, with all participants being acknowledged.

Video to aid in the experiment procedure.

Response Video from UCL planting there CSE experiment kit

Map of some of the CSE kits planted

View CSE Kits in a larger map

Frequently asked Questions:

> How deep should I plant the strip?
If you are wondering how deep to plant the strip, you can plant it as deep as you want. The main thing to keep in mind however is being able to re-locate the strip ready to send back to us (can be aided by the photo). The small segment at the square end (about 2cm) also needs to be accessible to the microbes we are locating so this part needs to be in contact at the least.

>Should I protect the strip from removal?
If you have children, dogs or gardeners it is advisable to plant it so that it cannot be seen, be that deeper in the soil so it is not visible, in harder to reach places such as under bushes or secluded areas, or covered by a plant pot. (Remember to take the photo to help re-locate)

> How long should I leave it for?
Each experimental kit has a due date on them for you to dig up and return the strip. If you are unable to make this deadline, it is best to leave the experiment in for longer rather than sending it in sooner.

>Where should I plant it?
You can plant the strip in any location you like, be that your garden, allotment, near a pond or in a plant pot. In order to increase your chances of finding the microbe it is best to plant more than one kit , sampling different areas of your garden which may have different microbial habitats (multiples can be ordered vie email As well as in gardens, it is good to think outside of the box to try and find unique places where the microbe maybe living to increase your chances of finding the elusive microbe.

Don’t forget to read and sign the experiment protocol if you have bought a kit.
If you have any Questions, please don't hesitate to email us at

Posted by Luke Thompson- Lab Leader
And Christopher Morton - Project Leader.

1 comment:

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