“Behind the blob, research”, a CNRS participatory science experiment

As part of the 2021/2022 year of biology, the CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research) is launching a participatory science project: Behind the blob, research. Open to all volunteers wishing to become actors in research, this experience of an unprecedented scale will make it possible to study the effects of climate change on the blob.

Presentation of the operation

Climate change has implications for biodiversity and ecosystems. In the years to come, heat waves will become longer, more intense, more frequent and more unexpected. This citizen science project is an opportunity to study the detailed impacts of temperature changes on the growth of fascinating organisms: slime molds.

A research project accessible to all those curious about science

Supported by the CNRS and under the leadership of ethologist Audrey Dussutour, Derrière le blob, la recherche is a participatory science project that will allow several thousand volunteers, from the age of 8, to take part in a research.
Over a period varying from one week to one month, and depending on their availability, participants will host a blob that they will have to hydrate and then feed. It will then be a question of simulating heat waves by varying the temperature at different frequencies and at different intensities.
The data collected by the participants will then be collected and analyzed by the team from the Center for Research on Animal Cognition-CBI (CNRS/UPS) in collaboration with the volunteers.

Advance knowledge by learning

The operation has a dual objective: to make volunteers aware of the scientific approach, from the design of a protocol to the publication of the results; but also allow volunteers to carry out a rigorous scientific experiment based on samples that scientists cannot perform in the laboratory.

The Blob: an extraordinary organization

From its real name Physarum polycephalum, the blob is an incredible unicellular organism. Neither animal, nor plant, nor mushroom, without a brain, it is a champion who can learn, even transmit information by merging with its congeners, which doubles in size daily and can reach several square meters. Able to regenerate, its lifespan can reach several decades.

At the beginning of its life, it measures 50 micrometers. In good conditions, its size doubles every day.

Audrey Dussutour

In France, the blob has been studied since 2009 at the Center for Research on Animal Cognition (CNRS/Paul Sabatier University, Toulouse) by researcher Audrey Dussutour.
Through more than 200 mediation actions carried out during her career, Audrey Dussutour has been able to use her scientific work on the behavior of ants and the blob to promote the issues and methods of scientific research to as many people as possible.
In 2021, his investment in mediation actions earned him the CNRS scientific mediation medal.