We’re trying to find out what makes some yeast able to withstand more alcohol or sugar than others. By understanding what makes some strains more tolerant we can potentially develop improved strains that may produce stronger beers or wines or be suitable for biofuel production. The first step is to identify a really tolerant strain, and that’s where you come in!
Contact us for a sample kit, fill in an application form and send us your yeast, whether it's from a sour dough starter or a bottle of beer, send it to us free of charge, and we’ll test its alcohol and sugar tolerance. Results will be posted on our online leader board and the provider of the winning yeast will win a prize.
After receiving your samples, we streak them on to nutrient-rich agar plates and allow them to grow for a few days inside a 30oC incubator. When we see colonies growing on the plate, we transfer a random single colony into nutrient-rich liquid, allowing further time for growth inside a heated, shaking incubator. We test the tolerance of your yeast by transferring droplets of the liquid sample to agar plates varying in the concentration of alcohol or sugar. The samples of yeast are ranked from best to worst at surviving in hostile conditions. Our leader board can be found here.
In this project we are using a "citizen science" approach. This is where scientists and members of the public work together to address scientific problems. In this project, we are asking for the public's help to find resistant yeast strains by sending samples of yeast to our scientists to test. While the term citizen science was not coined until the 1990s, public involvement in science like this dates back centuries. In 1715, for example, people from all over the country sent Edmund Halley observations of a solar eclipse and in the US, the Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 and still runs today, allowing the health of bird populations to be tracked, guiding conservation action. Today, there are a huge range of citizen science projects that you can get involved in, covering all sorts of topics from air pollution to butterfly monitoring. Many of these you can do online from your own home (explore those available on the Zooniverse platform, for example), while others allow you to explore the great outdoors. Visit SciStarter to find a project near you that you can get involved in.