On a sunny Wednesday, with a faint haze hanging over the Rockies, Noah Fierer eyed the field site from the back of his colleague’s Ford Explorer. Two blocks east of a strip mall in Longmont, Colo., one of the world’s last underexplored ecosystems had come into view: a sandstone-colored ranch house. A pair of dogs barked in the backyard.
Fierer, 39, a microbiologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a self-described “natural historian of cooties,” walked into the house, joining a team of researchers inside. One swabbed surfaces with sterile cotton swabs. Others logged the findings from two humming air samplers: clothing fibers, dog hair, skin flakes, particulate matter and microbial life.
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