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KPBS Midday Edition

San Diego Chemist On Globetrotting Trip To Study Surfers' Microbiomes

UCSD graduate student Clifford Kapono in Cornwall, England in November 2016. He is on a worldwide research trip to study microbes found on surfers' skin and in their guts.
Cliff Kapono
UCSD graduate student Clifford Kapono in Cornwall, England in November 2016. He is on a worldwide research trip to study microbes found on surfers' skin and in their guts.

San Diego Chemist On Globetrotting Trip To Study Surfers' Microbiomes
San Diego Chemist On Globetrotting Trip To Study Surfers' Microbiomes GUEST: Cliff Kapono, chemistry graduate student, UC San Diego

Surfers live a lot of their time in the ocean but how much of the ocean lives in them. Stood in the communities of microorganisms -- it is the mission of the surfer biome project. Cliff Kapono is on a nine-month globetrotting exhibition to collect samples of skin and gut bacteria from hundreds of surfers. We caught up with him via Skype in Ireland. Why are you starting in England and Ireland. Those places do not lead your mind as surfing destinations. The University of Exeter is the center for environmental health there looking previously at a bunch of different actions of antibiotic resistant bacteria colonizing surfers this is one of the first programs I came across that has a strong governmental support of how the environment affects human health. Tell us why you think the microbes in surfers may be different from non-surfers. The surfer biome project is a subsidy of them project led by the University of San Diego. We are starting to learn that the micro biome it's very important for my as for our health and we have to see how the environment and somebody who is constantly in the ocean and constantly moving between two worlds. We hypothesize that the environment is a direct facilitator of the types of different bacterial communities we find in our body and on our skin. You said in your previous answer that there have been found a conglomeration of microorganisms and created antibiotics to surfers that could be detrimental to them. Was colonized to an antibiotic resistant bacteria they are less healthy than someone else. I think that it has become a carrier to the us types of back to area -- of bacteria. If they go and work out and meet with their grandparents or someone who might be immunocompromised and might be a carrier of these different types of pathogens which could pose a health risk for the global population. So that is one thing that you already sort of know about the serving population. You will be testing the content skin of servers and basically all parts of the globe. It comes down to understanding how you see yourself. We are trying to answer that on a molecular level geographical cultural and social behavior we've identified what it means to be human. And that could be for culture or ethnicity or nationality or the language we want to be able to understand the simple -- similarities and differences and correlated back into what it means to be healthy. What are some of the places you will be going to? I just came back from Cornwall England. I am in Ireland currently and I will go to Morocco and the West Coast of the United States and South America and she lay and why am trying to go to Asia whether it be Hong Kong or somewhere in Indonesia. You grew up in who I. How important is surfing to you personally? Surfing is a part of Mike family culture and how I can on a global scale affect this is a huge honor for me. After you get back inside to set -- study all of these biome samples you hope this work will lead to therapy. It's been kind of hard to get the appreciation. To get them to invest resources into the population so it's kind of a way to facilitate that shows that by protecting the environment we are indirectly protecting ourselves and maybe that can promote the ocean as a resource and that maybe one way to protect it and maybe that will encourage a lot more protection along the lines of that natural resource. I have been speaking about the surfer biome project. Speaking about with -- we have been speaking to Cliff Capone of. Thank you so much.

Surfers spend a lot of their time in the ocean and a UC San Diego doctoral student is on a worldwide trek to find out how much of the ocean winds up in surfers.

Cliff Kapono, a chemistry Ph.D. candidate, is launching the Surfer Biome Project to collect samples of the chemicals and microorganisms on surfers' skin and in their guts. He left for England in September and will visit Spain, Morocco, Chile, Indonesia and Hawaii before returning to California in June.

The Surfer Biome Project

There are millions of different bacteria in a liter of ocean water and many get into surfers bodies when they swallow water or through their noses and ears. British scientists found that surfers have more antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their guts compared to non-surfers. Kapono's research will help determine whether surfers have different "microbial profiles" in different countries. Depending on the results, Kapono said the work could lead to new ocean-based therapies and inspire new approaches to conservation.

"In grad school, you spend a lot of time in the lab. Something in me felt that if I wasn’t constantly surrounded by what I’m trying to protect, I’d be falling short," said Kapono, who is a native Hawaiian. "Culturally, I was raised that we belong in nature and we also have a responsibility to be a steward of that environment."

Kapono joins KPBS Midday Edition on Monday to discuss his early findings.