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    Hands on Biofilm! Utilizing a public audience in a citizen science project to assess yield variability when culturing kombucha pellicle

    Verran, Joanna ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5539-6896, Redfern, James ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0958-683X, Cunliffe, Alex, Romachney, Anna and Wood, Jane (2023) Hands on Biofilm! Utilizing a public audience in a citizen science project to assess yield variability when culturing kombucha pellicle. FEMS Microbiology Letters, 370. fnad073. ISSN 0378-1097

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    Abstract

    The pellicle biofilm generated during the Kombucha tea fermentation process has, when dried, textile-like properties that may have real-life applications. However, pellicle yield can vary depending on inoculation and incubation conditions, which affects research investigations on the properties of the pellicle. To generate data on variability to help define optimum pellicle growth conditions, as part of a public engagement event about biofilm, a citizen science activity was hosted whereby visitors to a science festival were invited to select incubation conditions and inoculate different media with liquid or solid (pellicle). More than 220 samples were inoculated (in excess of 1200 visitors, mainly in family groups). The most popular incubation conditions were coconut water or tea medium, 30°C/room temperature and liquid inoculum. The most productive/reproducible in terms of yield and variability were tea medium, 30°C, and liquid inoculum, which reflect some of the conditions most used in the domestic setting for kombucha culture. The event provided both useful research data and generated public interest in a research area of which many will have been unaware. Interest in the results of the activity, available several weeks after the activity, was sustained using email contact and FlickR for the dissemination of images and data.

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