The Indoor Microbiome: Novel Applications in Mold Prevention, Healthy Spacecraft, and COVID-19

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 4-7-2021


COVID-19, mold growth, international space station


We spend 90% of our time indoors where we are continuously exposed to diverse microbial communities. This talk will highlight three applications where enhanced understanding of the fungi, bacteria, and viruses in our indoor space can improve our health. First, relative humidity in the air is sufficient to support microbial growth in carpet and dust, and this can be modeled quantitatively using the time-of-wetness framework. Prevention of mold growth in homes is especially important for underserved communities who may be more likely to reside in poor quality housing and/or have asthma. Second, these findings can be applied in a wide variety of environments, including on the International Space Station (ISS) to ensure that astronauts can remain healthy during long-duration space travel. Finally, these measurement techniques have resulted in a novel surveillance tool to continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic in high-risk buildings, which will be especially important as vaccines are distributed and asymptomatic routine testing is reduced.

Streaming Media


Karen C Dannemiller, PhD directs the Indoor Environmental Quality research group, which addresses emerging environmental concerns within the built environment. She is an assistant professor at The Ohio State University with a joint appointment in Civil, Environmental & Geodetic Engineering and Environmental Health Sciences. She is also a core faculty member of the Sustainability Institute and has a courtesy appointment in Microbiology. Her work aims to improve understanding of chemical and microbial processes indoors that impact health while fostering student engagement. Funding sources include NSF, NIH, NASA, HUD, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and SOCHE/AFRL. Recent awards include National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, Buckeye Engineering Women in Executive Leadership (BEWEL) Leadership in Innovation Award, and the Lumley Engineering Research Award.