Dec. 20, 2019

Microbes take over the Canadian Museum of Nature

UCalgary researchers partner with museum to bring science to life
Kathy McCoy and Andre Buret at Canadian Museum of Nature
Kathy McCoy and Andre Buret attend the opening of the Microbiome exhibit in Ottawa. Cynthia Munster

A new exhibit exploring the human microbiome the trillions of tiny organisms living on us and in us opened at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. The exhibit, Me & My Microbes: The Zoo Inside You, is a Canadian premiere from the American Museum of Natural History and has a unique University of Calgary connection.

UCalgary is the sole knowledge sponsor of the event, and the museum is collaborating with the university’s International Microbiome Centre for its scientific expertise. “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.

  • Photo above: Kathy McCoy and André Buret attend the Canadian premiere of the human microbiome exhibit, of which UCalgary is the knowledge sponsor. Photo by Cynthia Munster 

"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."

Exploring the microbiome

The travelling exhibition consists of a 7,000-square-foot presentation about the human microbiome. It explains the vast community of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes that call our bodies home.

The exhibition takes visitors on a journey through the human body to explore the microbiome, discover what microbes are, where they are found, how they interact within us, and learn how incredible new discoveries are redefining notions of human health. It contains immersive experiences, significant digital interactive elements, videos and a live demonstration area.

Kathy McCoy at the opening of the Microbiome exhibit in Ottawa

Kathy McCoy discusses an exhibit with a museum guest.

Cynthia Munster

Several UCalgary experts will share their unique expertise for affiliated programs and talks over the course of the exhibition including Dr. Kathy McCoy, PhD, director of the International Microbiome Centre.

  • Jan. 16, Kathy McCoy: Our Lifestyles, Our Microbes: The Hidden Connection
  • Feb. 6, Dr. Raylene Reimer, PhD: Diet and Prebiotics: Happy Gut, Happy Life
  • March 16, Dr. Marie Claire Arrieta, PhD: Let Them Eat Dirt: Childhood and the Microbiome (includes the screening of the documentary, Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World)

“Often people ask me why I study this specific area and how I got involved in this type of research. To be honest with you, I see this as one the most important areas to study in human health,” McCoy says. “We know the microbiome is important for maintaining human health, and when things go wrong it can contribute to disease.”

About the International Microbiome Centre

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.

Researchers investigating the microbiome not only look at human health, but also agriculture, energy, and the environment. The hub of the centre is a germ-free facility. It is one of the largest germ-free labs in an academic setting dedicated to studying the microbiome’s role in immunity and disease. This centre, paired with its imaging ability, allows researchers to observe the behaviour of our microbiome in an environment that is free of other bacterial or vital containments.

The exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Nature runs until March 29, 2020.

Andre Buret at opening of the microbiome exhibit

André Buret, third from right, speaks to guests at the opening of the microbiome exhibit.

Cynthia Munster