Science Cheerleader and our sister site, SciStarter, are partnering with Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc. on Project MERCCURI, an investigation anchored by the Eisen Lab at the University of California Davis of how microbes from buildings on Earth compare to those found on the International Space Station (ISS).
The Science Cheerleaders, current and former NFL and NBA cheerleaders pursuing science and technology careers, will help youth cheerleaders collect microbial samples at opening football games! These samples will be sequenced and analyzed at UC Davis and Argonne National Lab and compared to samples from the ISS. This will help us learn about the population and behaviors of microbes which, among other things, may have implications for long-term manned space travel.
In addition, at least one surface sample collected from the Pop Warner teams will be selected to join 39 others to  fly to the ISS this winter to compete in a “microbial playoffs” growth competition on the Station itself! The Science Cheerleaders are leading collection activities at NFL, NBA, and MLB games as well as school venues across the country.
All results will be shared on where visitors will find free interactive visualization tools and ongoing lesson plans. Let the learning  begin!

Pop Warner science cheerleader citizen science Project MERCCURI

Lindsey (chemical engineer, NFL cheerleader) helped the Coastal Pop Warner Bengals Pee Wee cheerleaders collect microbes from shoes, cellphones and the field in North Carolina on August 6.

Pop Warner citizen science Project MERCCURI

Taylor (MRI tech, former NBA cheerleader) and the Coronado Pop Warner Islander cheerleaders collected microbes in San Diego, CA on 8/24. Credit:

Central Mass Pop Warner Project MERCCURI citizen science

Pop Warner’s Chicopee Braves brought science to their Central Mass Jamboree in Springfield, MA on 8/25!

Mari (former Dolphins cheerleader) helps the Lauderhill, FL Broncos swab microbes!

Mari (former Dolphins cheerleader) helps the Lauderhill, FL Broncos swab microbes!

Ashley (engineer at NASA and former Orlando Magic cheerleader) leads the citizen science project with the Lake Brantley Patriots Pop Warner

Ashley (engineer at NASA and former Orlando Magic cheerleader) leads the citizen science project with the Lake Brantley Patriots Pop Warner

Project MERCCURI citizen science orlando magic pop warner

Ashley and the Pop Warner Apopka Blue Darters in Apopka, FL


Tracy and the Fox Valley Gators from IL! Tracy thanked the girls with homemade “Smartie Poms” (candy-filled pompoms!)

Project MERCCURI Science Cheerleader Space Microbes Citizen science Pop Warner

Thanks Four Points Pop Warner Vipers, in Austin, TX! Did you know your coach, Dionn is not only a Computer Scientist with a Stanford MBA, but she cheered for the Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves?


The Chittenango Bears collected microbial samples on their own!


Thera, a space systems electrical engineer and former Golden State Wattiors cheerleader, joined cheerleaders from Pop Warner’s Castro Valley Gladiators in CA

And special thanks to these Pop Warner teams for participating, too!
Chesapeake Wolverines, Portsmouth, VA
Port Reading Saints, Port Reading, NJ
Check out related Project MERCCURI events from Boston, MA, Broward County, FL, San Francisco, CA, Wilmington, NC, Phoenix, AZ, Howard County, MD, Philadelphia, PA, San Antonio, TX, Washington, DC, and from our partners at Yuri’s Night.
In addition to NFL, NBA and MLB teams, there are many schools registered to participate this fall. Stay tuned for updates from those stadiums and classrooms!
On behalf of everyone at Project MERCCURI, thanks to all the Pop Warner participants! And a special shout out to Space Florida and NanoRacks without whom none of our samples would be heading to space!
Remember, all findings will be shared here and on ! And while some samples will be sent to the Space Station this winter, ALL shoe and cellphone samples will be sequenced and added to the Earth Microbiome Project! So, YES, your participation matters!

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