EN  | DE

Newsletter lesen : Juli 2023
Juni 2023


Microbial Treasures in Soil

Citizenscience project on microbial diversity - Find new soil bacteria

Picture: HIPS/Sophia Decker

Explore microbial diversity in soil with us

Soil bacteria are an important source of chemical compounds called natural products, which are then further developed to become new drugs. Researchers at the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (shortened "HIPS") want to find out more about those useful bacteria. You can find all information about the citizenscience* initiative on this website, including a guide for a proper sample collection and access to the sample-app in order to be able to register your new samples online.

* Citizenscience = everyone can join the project

Besucht uns im MICROBELIX Pop-up Labor am 19./20. Juli!

Der Urwald forscht! Im Grünen außerhalb Saarbrückens erwarten euch Probensammel-Ausflüge in den Urwald vor den Toren der Stadt zusammen mit den Rangern der Naturwacht Saar sowie mikrobiologische Experimente mit den Wissenschaftlern des HIPS. Zurück im Wildniscamp kann sich jeder im Pop-up Labor daran versuchen, neue spannende Bodenbakterien aus eigenen Bodenproben zu entdecken. Außerdem gibt es eine Menge Informationen darüber, wie die Forschung zur mikrobiellen Artenvielfalt im Erdboden und die Entwicklung neuer pharmazeutischer Wirkstoffe zusammen hängen, sowie Gelegenheit den Wissenschaftlern vor Ort direkt Fragen zu stellen.

Das MICROBELIX Pop-up Labor ist eine Aktion im Rahmen des Citizenscience-Wettbwerbs Auf die Plätze! Citizenscience in deiner Stadt. MICROBELIX ist eines der drei 2023/24 geförderten Gewinnerprojekte.

Wann und wo: Freitag 19.7 und Samstag 20.7. von 10 bis 18 Uhr, im Wildniscamp im Urwald vor den Toren der Stadt, nicht weit vom Wanderparkplatz am Forsthaus Neuhaus. Siehe Karte

How can I contribute?

1. Obtaining the sample collection kit
You can pick up a set for the collection of soil samples at the HIPS, and we mail them also upon request. Outdoor clubs and schools can contact us to receive sets.

2. Register as a sample collector
Register as a new sample contributor and we will send you the sample kit. Then study the sample guidelines to learn about scientific sample collection and how to obtain samples of good quality. All set - you are ready to go!

3. Collect samples and register them online
By viewing the interactive map you can see were samples have already been taken. When collecting a new sample, register it online and send the sample material to HIPS.

Research at HIPS

The HIPS scientists are engaged with a variety of problems concerning pharmaceutical agents. These are the main objectives of our research:

Discovering new natural products from soil microbes and examining their mode of action .

Improving active agents to enable their development into new pharmaceuticals.

Examining drug delivery to find new ways for molecules to reach their target

You can find more information about our research on our website. HIPS belongs to the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research HZI.

Register as a new sample collector:

First name

Last name

Street and house number

Postcode, place of residence


Please enter the required mail address above.

Researcher ID

Access code

Why should I register? – Register as a sample collector in order to receive a sample kit and allow us to connect soil samples with the collectors. If you register with the form on the left, you will enjoy the following advantages:

Personal feedback – If we find something significant in your sample, you will receive a report via email.

Participation in the prize draw – We will give away several prizes amoung all contrbutors of soils samples, and the most interesiting sample is awarded a special prize.

After submitting the registration form, an email confirmation should arrive in the mailbox. If not, please check the spam folder.

Data usage: we promise that we will not give away email addresses or other personal data, and will only use it internally within the context of the campaign. Data privacy statement

Where should I collect samples?

The most interesting soil samples are from areas which we have not yet received samples from (i.e., no green marker points in the map). In addition, you have to pay attention to a few additional things in order to collect the best possible soil samples.

More information is available in the sample guidelines for scientific sample-taking.

Important: The best way to register the exact position is by using our Sample-app online . It is fast and easy to register the soil sample in the HIPS research database.

Particularly suitable for sampling are natural, secluded sites with rich vegetation. But also places like the compost heap, the mud on the bank of the garden pond or rotting plant material can be interesting spots for bacteria to be isolated. Be creative - the HIPS scientists are looking forward to samples from very special places! Please be considerate to the natural landscape. When sampling in protected areas please stay near to the paths and take care not to disturb wildlife or damage vegetation.

Commonly asked questions and answers

Is this the same project as the "Sample das Saarland" campaign?

Indeed we startet in 2017 using the motto "Sample das Saarland" to motivate mainly inhabitants of the Saarland region in Germany to send us soil samples. Saarland is the home region of the HIPS, which is located in Saarbrücken. As of 2022 we ask everyone in Germany to contribute soil samples. In the summer of 2022 our citizenscience campaign was also part of the MS Wissenschaft exhibition. Since summer 2023 our project has the new title MICROBELIX to emphasize the development,

Microbial treasures - does that mean I can get rich?

Short answer: No. However, the scientists at HIPS not either! It takes a lot of research to get from a new bacterium to a potentially applicable drug. This route lasts many years and it is impossible to say anything about the success prospects at the time of sampling. The use of soil samples, however, contributes to increasing the chances that one day an interesting active ingredient may be found, which is derived from a soil bacterium out of your garden.

What would I get from sending a soil sample?

Above all, the good feeling to have made an important contribution to basic scientific research. The microbial biodiversity in soil is a topic that can only be explored with the help of soil samples from as many different natural environments as possible. We also prepared several surprises and will reward the most exciting soil sample with a special gift...

Would I know if something has been found in my sample?

Yes! Each sample collector who has registered with email address will receive a short report if we could identify a typical soil bacterium in the sample. However, the soil samples then undergo very long-term tests and analyzes, and we ask for your understanding that we can not provide detailed information on any results that may be achieved in years. Especially interesting finds will be presented on this website from time to time.

Can I send soil samples from "somewhere else"?

The goal of the current project is to collect soil samples from as many places as possible in Germany. In principle the HIPS scientists also like to analyze samples from other interesting places. However, we can only process soil samples from Germany at this time. There are international agreements, e.g. The Nagoya protocol, which makes it too complicated for us to research samples from places around the world.

What is the sample-kit and where can I get it?

The kit for the collection of soil samples can be obtained in the afternoons at the HIPS on the campus of the University of the Saarland, building E8.1, at the secretariat on the 3rd floor. Also some pharmacies in the Saarland distribute the sets, or we mail it to you if you fill in the form on this page. Clubs and schools can contact us to get sets. Included in the sample collection kit are lab materials to assist in clean sample collection and safe transport of the soil sample. There is also an already stamped envelope, as well as the sample guidelines and sample identifier, which helps us to register the entered material in the HIPS database and to assign it to a certain location.

Can I also send the samples without the sample kit?

If absolutely required, yes - but it will be harder for microbiologists to deal with this sample. If you are at an extremely exciting place and do not have a sample collection kit, you can also fill sample material in a clean plastic bag and send us. Please, however, do not touch the sample (will result in contamination) with the fingers, close the sachet tightly and always send an ✉  email message so that we know about the dispatch of your sample.

What happens with samples at HIPS?

The soil samples undergo a complex analysis procedure, carried out by our microbiology experts in the HIPS lab. First of all, all kinds of other micro-organisms, such as mites, fungi, amoebae and many common bacterial species, must be removed, in order to "extract" the most interesting soil bacteria from the sample. Then it is the task of microbiologists to identify new bacterial species. Chemists and pharmacists then investigate whether these bacteria can produce interesting drugs.


Naturlandstiftung Logo

✉ Email Contact

This website is maintained by HIPS, part of Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI), Braunschweig/Germany
Impressum und Datenschutzerklärung: