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After 2 Years Scientists Still Can’t Solve Belly Button Mystery, Continue Navel-Gazing

This is a confession. I started out as a respectable sort of ecologist studying rain forests and then at some point my road turned and I ended up where I am today, lost among the belly buttons.

I know how it happened. Two years ago we began to focus much of our lab’s work on engaging the public. One way to make science public is to work with people to study their own lives (see yourwildlife.org). This is just what we did. Spurred by the idea of an undergraduate student, Britné Hackett and the microbiological skills of a postdoc, Jiri Hulcr (and funded by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute), we went boldly where few had dared or really wanted to go before: into the navel. We saw piercings, an infection or two, lint, and more hair than we were comfortable with. It was innocent, or at least it started out that way.

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