Berkeley Indoor Microbial Ecology Research Consortium (BIMERC)

While microorganisms are found on surfaces, in the air, and throughout the water systems of buildings, the air is likely the most important medium for dissemination.  The BIMERC group is working on understanding the microbial components of indoor air, including the identification of the source populations and illuminating the processes that suspend and disseminate microbes and microbial products in buildings.

The goals of this consortium are to:

1) Investigate the processes of microbial community assembly in the indoor environment

2) Understand the relationship between building design, external climate, and interior microbial community

3) Improve instrumentation to measure volatile, organic compounds derived from
microbes, microbial toxins, and allergens in indoor air

Summary of ongoing research:

Understanding the source populations and processes that suspend and disseminate microbes and microbial products in indoor air remains a central focus for the field of microbiology of the built environment. To this end, investigators in the Berkeley Indoor Air Research Consortium (BIMERC) are developing independent and cross-disciplinary research projects that address the transport of microbes from different perspectives. A classroom study evaluates the indoor dynamics and emission rates of biological particles by measuring time- and size-resolved levels using an ultraviolet aerodynamic particle sizer. In a similar time-resolved study of residences, we seek to identify how occupant behavior influences microbial components of indoor air using active sampling techniques. This study in residences is coupled with a longer term, time-integrated study on human exposure to microbial products using passive sampling. Moreover, we have begun to investigate the organic signal of pure cultures of microbes ubiquitous in indoor air to explore whether we can identify chemical tracers. This union of biology, engineering, and chemistry offers exciting opportunities to further this field.

Principle Investigators:

Tom Bruns, University of California, Berkeley
Ed Arens, University of California, Berkeley
Allen Goldstein, University of California, Berkeley
Steve Lindow, University of California, Berkeley
Bill Nazaroff, University of California, Berkeley
John Taylor, University of California, Berkeley
Gary Anderson, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory