The Dirt Detective:

A bioavailable phosphorus sensor powered by E. coli!

The WLC-Milwaukee team is based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which is located in the heart of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River water systems and the massive agricultural hub of the United States Midwest region. To maintain the health of crops and aquatic habitats, nutrients in the soil and water must strike a delicate balance so as to not exceed or subseed optimal concentrations. Phosphorus is one such vital nutrient and is difficult to measure as it exists in nature as both a non-bioavailable form as phosphorus and a bioavailable form as phosphate. Students from Wisconsin Lutheran College have spent the past year developing a biological sensor for bioavailable phosphate in soil so as to monitor and improve the invaluable agricultural and water resources of our community. The Dirt Detective phosphate sensor is a new technology resulting from synthetic biology guided by local experts in agriculture and soil science.

  • To view an overview of the Dirt Detective project as a whole and learn about the rationale behind choosing a project related to phosphate and soil science, visit the Description and Design page
  • To see to process of how we used genetic engineering to reach our goals, visit the Experiments page
  • To explore how our bioavailable phosphate sensors performed in a laboratory setting, visit the Results and Demonstration page
  • To learn about the team’s process of designing, building, and testing of the Dirt Detective, visit the Engineering page
  • To explore how the WLC-Milwaukee team strives to better our communities, implement solutions, and contribute to the field of synthetic biology, visit the Contribution page
  • To read about how WLC-Milwaukee’s project was guided by communication and feedback received from local experts in agriculture and biology, visit the Outreach and Engagement page
  • To read about all of the extraordinary members of the WLC-Milwaukee team, visit the Members page
  • To learn about all the incredible people who participated in and supported WLC-Milwaukee’s work on the Dirt Detector project, visit the Attributions page
  • To read about how the accomplishments of the Dirt Detective project fulfill the pillars of the iGEM competition and contribute to the field of synthetic biology, visit the Medals page
  • To learn about the novel functional parts WLC-Milwaukee contributed to the iGEM registry, visit the Parts page
  • To learn how WLC-Milwaukee prioritized and enforced safety in all aspects of the Dirt Detective project, visit the Safety page
  • To learn about how WLC-Milwaukee involved local community members to guide our purpose so as to remain committed to bettering, visit the Human Practices page