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  6. The Zoo Inside You! Trillions of tiny organisms star in Canadian premiere of Me & My Microbes exhibition

The Zoo Inside You! Trillions of tiny organisms star in Canadian premiere of Me & My Microbes exhibition

OTTAWA, December 18, 2019 – Microbes are taking over the Canadian Museum of Nature! A new exhibition, Me & My Microbes: The Zoo Inside You, explores the human microbiome—the trillions of tiny organisms living on us and in us. A Canadian premiere, this insightful exhibition from the American Museum of Natural History opens to the public on December 20, 2019 and runs until March 29, 2020.

“Life on our planet depends on microbes. What better way to grasp their relevance than through this exhibition that examines the biodiversity associated with our very own bodies,” says Meg Beckel, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Nature. “Most of these microbes are vital to our health. You’ll learn why in this fascinating show, as well as how research into the human microbiome is a rapidly evolving area of science.”

With trillions of microbes living in and on us—including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites— our bodies contain more microbial cells than human ones. There are even more microbes in the human body than stars in the Milky Way! These microbes affect digestion, fight off disease, and can even influence your mood. As shown in the exhibition, they live on our skin and in our gut, make their first appearances during birth, and colonize the body and evolve over a lifetime.  

Chock-full of information, the exhibition explores the sometimes complex relationships between our microbes and our health through videos, games, larger-than-life models, art installations, and clever, sensory experiences. For example, a station about bacteria on feet offers the dubious pleasure of sniffing the foul odour, thanks to the sulphur-smelling compound methanethiol.

There is also an interactive 4 m-long interactive tabletop that shows how the human body is an ecosystem, revealing different microbial areas, from mouth bacteria to eyelashes harbouring microscopic mites. Another interactive station challenges you to build a microbiome (grow helpful microbes) through three games where you either feed the gut, cure a throat infection, or fight an antibiotic-resistant infection.

The museum is collaborating with the University of Calgary’s International Microbiome Centre for its scientific expertise to develop . “The University of Calgary is very excited to work with the Canadian Museum of Nature to help people understand how important the microbiome is to our overall health,” says Dr. André Buret, interim vice-president (research) at the University of Calgary. “Disruptions in our microbiome can lead directly to disease. Our world-class researchers are dedicated to finding new and better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat these illnesses.”                                                         
The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, through its Weston Family Microbiome Initiative, is supporting the exhibition as Presenting Partner. “Our Foundation is delighted to support this innovative and interactive exhibition that highlights the important role the human microbiome plays in our health,” says Mark Mitchell, Chair of the Weston Family Microbiome Initiative. “We believe in the potential of microbiome research to find powerful new approaches that will lead to an improvement in the health and well-being of Canadians.”

Complementing the exhibition will be a range of engaging activities for different ages:

·         a daily live quiz show, Tiny but Mighty: My Microbes, in the exhibition’s “Lab” presentation area (offered in English and French);

·         play area for toddlers and preschoolers in the exhibition, with microbe plush toys, picture books and a “discovery box” activity revealing animals that eat unusual things and the effect on the microbiome;

·         quiz-game called Five-second rule in the Nature Live Gallery (3rd floor) for two contestants or two teams;

·         three special “gut talks” presented in partnership with the University of Calgary’s International Microbiome Centre. Registration is required:

o   January 16, Dr. Kathy McCoy, Our lifestyles, our microbes: The hidden connection

o   February 6, Dr. Raylene Reimer, Diet and prebiotics: Happy gut, happy life

o   March 16, Dr. Marie Claire Arrieta, Let them eat dirt: Childhood and the microbiome  (includes screening of the documentary, Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World)

·         after-hours event, Nature Nocturne, on January 31, with access to the Me & My Microbes exhibition; featuring special activities developed by the University of Calgary, including an innovative game that links your microbiome to your personality.  

Visitors will also be able to see live and colourful microbes at work! Five tissue-culture flasks will be on display, containing different species of cyanobacteria. These samples were collected from Arctic lakes by Université Laval scientists to study impacts of the rapidly changing climate in the Arctic. The museum’s National Biodiversity Cryobank of Canada will store and curate samples of Arctic microbes collected by this research team in 2020.

The special exhibition fee for Me & My Microbes: The Zoo Inside You is $6 in addition to the cost of general museum admission. The museum is located at 240 McLeod Street (at Metcalfe St.), Ottawa. Visit nature.ca for hours and fees. Look for the hashtag #microbes on the Museum’s social media channels: Twitter (@museumofnature) and Instagram (museumofnature). Follow the Museum on facebook.com/Canadianmuseumofnature.

Me & My Microbes: The Zoo Inside You (originally entitled The Secret World Inside You) is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (amnh.org). The exhibition is made possible with the support from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation (Presenting Partner), University of Calgary (Knowledge Sponsor), BioGaia (Supporting Sponsor), and The Globe and Mail (Media Partner). 

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About the Canadian Museum of Nature
Saving the world through evidence, knowledge, and inspiration! The Canadian Museum of Nature is Canada's national museum of natural history and natural sciences. The museum provides evidence-based insights, inspiring experiences and meaningful engagement with nature's past, present and future. It achieves this through scientific research, a 14.6 million specimen collection, education programs, signature and travelling exhibitions, and a dynamic web site, nature.ca.

About the University of Calgary and the International Microbiome Centre
The University of Calgary is a global intellectual hub located in Canada’s most enterprising city. In our spirited, high-quality learning environment, students thrive in programs made rich by research, hands-on experiences and entrepreneurial thinking. Our Eyes High strategy drives us to be recognized as one of Canada’s top five research universities, engaging the communities we both serve and lead. For more information, visit ucalgary.ca/eyeshigh. Stay up to date with University of Calgary news headlines on Twitter @UCalgary. For details on faculties and how to reach experts go to our media centre at ucalgary.ca/mediacentre.

The International Microbiome Centre at the University of Calgary is a translational research centre designed to investigate the microbiome of humans, plants, animals and the physical environment. Together, world-class researchers, a one-of-a-kind facility, and supporting technology work to spark groundbreaking discoveries to harness the healing power of the microbiome.

About The W. Garfield Weston Foundation
For three generations, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has pursued its mission to enhance and enrich the lives of Canadians. With a focus on health and landscapes, the Foundation aims to catalyze inquiry and innovation to bring about long-term change. As the Foundation marks its 60th anniversary, it continues to collaborate with a broad range of Canadian charities to further world-class research, explore new ideas, and create tangible benefits for the communities in which it works.

Images and video footage available upon request.

Information for media:
Dan Smythe
Media Relations
Canadian Museum of Nature
613.566.4781; 613.698.9253 (cell)
dsmythe@nature.ca                                                  

Laura Sutin
Media Relations
Canadian Museum of Nature
613.698.7142
lsutin@nature.ca

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Microbes are taking over the Canadian Museum of Nature! A new exhibition, Me & My Microbes: The Zoo Inside You, explores the human microbiome—the trillions of tiny organisms living on us and in us.