Ok, the phrase “Lil Bub is an American celebrity cat….” is not the way I start a lot of blog posts. I enjoy cats on the internet as much as anyone–but their relevance to science is not one of the reasons, usually. But the Lil Bub genome project changes that. A popular, crowd-funded, genome sequencing project of a beloved “celebrity cat” might be a nice gateway for people who are new to the technology.
As a supporter of the initial funding effort, I get the update emails when they have something new to share. I was very pleased to get the new video, where one of the project team members talks about the sequencing and the FASTQ files. Uschi Symmons gives a bit of backstory on the sequencing, shows the files they have, and talks about the quality scores. And I like that the face of this technical information is a woman scientist, too. As a young girl interested in science, I would have noticed that sort of aspect.
They offer some additional detail and links on their blog if people have questions. Reading Bub’s DNA Sequence: The Raw Data.
It seems to me that this effort is a nice and gentle way to get people used to the ideas of genome sequencing. This could be kids and families facing a sequencing project with the hope of a diagnosis, or it could be youngsters in science classes who could be engaged with the ideas and the technology is out-of-the-textbook ways. It’s already been popular with the press, not just at the techie/nerd media, but more widely as well: Lil Bub, famous Internet cat, is getting her genome sequenced.
There is evidence that watching cat videos has health benefits. I think that watching cat genome sequencing may have educational benefits as well. Follow along, and spread the word about this project as it develops. Simply becoming more familiar with the process of the science here, even if the outcome is unexpected, would still have teachable moments. It may catch the eye of some youngster in ways that typical classroom material won’t. And I’m interested in what the science tells us as well. I’ll be watching for more.
Lil BUB: http://lilbub.com/
LilBUBome blog: https://lilbubome.wordpress.com/
LilBubome YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYzr7zLk-LhRGrCM92Nj1Gg
Project twitter account: https://twitter.com/LilBUBome
Myrick, J. (2015). Emotion regulation, procrastination, and watching cat videos online: Who watches Internet cats, why, and to what effect? Computers in Human Behavior, 52, 168-176 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2015.06.001