NLSI is always excited by new citizen science opportunities, where members of the general public can help scientists solve big mysteries. Now a new Zooniverse project has been launched in association with the Medical Research Council and the Medical Research Foundation: Worm Watch Lab.

Scientists need the public’s help in observing the behavior of tiny nematode worms. When you classify on wormwatchlab.org you’re shown a video of a worm wriggling around. The aim of the game is to watch and wait for the worm to lay eggs, and to hit the ‘z’ key when they do. It’s very simple and strangely addictive. By watching these worms lay eggs, you’re helping to collect valuable data about genetics that will assist medical research.

With your classifications researchers can understand how the brain works and how genes affect behavior. The idea is that if a gene is involved in a visible behavior, then mutations that break that gene might lead to detectable behavioral changes. The type of change gives us a hint about what the affected gene might be doing. Although it is small and has far fewer cells than we do, the worm used in these studies (called C. elegans) has almost as many genes as we do! We share a common ancestor with these worms, so many of their genes are closely related to human genes. This presents us with the opportunity to study the function of genes that are important for human brain function in an animal that is easier to handle, great for microscopy and genetics, and has a generation time of only a few days. It’s all quite amazing!

To get started visit www.wormwatchlab.org and follow the tutorial.

Posted by: Soderman/NLSI Staff
Source: Zooniverse team

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