Funding StatementThis work was not supported by any external funding.
Background on the Eisenome Project
The two senior authors on this paper are siblings who have converged on similar research topics over the last few years. One of us (Jonathan4) has focused mostly on microbial genome evolution and microbial diversity but has done more and more work on host-microbe interactions in invertebrates. The other (Michael5) has focused on the evolution and development of multicellular eukaryotes especially yeast and various Diptera. Recently he has become more and more interested in microbes found in association with hosts as well as microbial diversity in food production. We have also both become more and more interested in applied projects (e.g., food production) and citizen science projects (e.g., citizen microbiology). As we are at neighboring University of California Institutions (Davis and Berkeley) we decided to seek out possible projects to work on jointly.
We have identified earthworms as an ideal topic to bridge our multiple interests. Of the various earthworms of potential interest, we have selected those used for vermicomposting1due to the significant interest in this process by citizens globally as well as in Berkeley and Davis specifically.
In a remarkable coincidence we discovered that two of the worm species used frequently for vermicompositing are in the genus “Eisenia“: “Eisenia foetida”(the red wiggler worm) and “Eisenia hortensis”(the European nightcrawler).
We then conducted extensive Google based research on these species and the history of their naming. The genusEiseniais named after Gustav Eisen (also known as Gustaf and Gustavus) who was born in Sweden in 1847 and later moved to the California where he worked at the California Academy of Sciences for many years (for a mini biography see
In California, he conducted many surveys of earthworms (and other invertebrates) in Northern California. 8Unfortunately, many of his collections were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.
Among other items of interest – he also worked on horticulture and wrote widely read books on figs 6and the raisin industry.7 He also was involved in some of the initial efforts to protect open space in California and had a mountain in the Sierras named after him. In addition, he corresponded with Charles Darwin due to Darwin’s interest in earthworms.
Given the scientific and personal interest, to initiate our collaboration we have commenced on a pilot project to characterize the genome sequences of these worms (which we refer to as the “Eisenome”)and genomes of the microbial communities associated with various Eisenia worms (which we refer to as the “MetaEisenome”).
AcknowledgementsWe thank all members of the Eisen Labs and Eisen Families for support.
- Wikipedia Entry on Vermicomposting
- Gustav Eisen (1847-1947) Biographical Sketch by Jane Radcliffe, Archives Volunteer and Christina V. Fidler.
- Native worms outnumbered by worldly brethren. Joe Eaton,Ron Sullivan. San Francisco Chronicle. Sunday, March 18, 2012
- Jonathan Eisen's Lab Page.
- Michael Eisen's Lab Page.
- The fig: its history, culture, and curing, with a descriptive catalogue of the known varieties of figs (1901). Eisen, Gustavus A., 1847-1940.
- The raisin industry. A practical treatise on the raisin grapes, their history, culture and curing. Eisen, Gustavus A., 1847-1940.
- On California Eudrilidæ (1894). Eisen, Gustavus A., 1847-1940.