Nicole Garneau, PhD

Dr. Nicole Garneau is a geneticist who is interested in the way a person's DNA affects their ability to taste, and therefore their food choices and diet. The data from her research will improve our understanding of how evolution has helped us adapt as a species in order to survive, and also explain the effects of taste evolution on modern day humans. She is an advocate for women in science and making science relevant through engaging communication and outreach in the community.

Learn more about Dr. Garneau's alter ego "Yo Pearl the Science Girl" @yopearlscigirl on Twitter and by clicking the "Explore More" button on the right to access

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Denver Teen Science Scholars

The Denver Museum Teen Science Scholars program is open to students from Colorado high schools who demonstrate through essay and interview their determination to be successful and committed to science. The scholars experience hands-on opportunities to work with the Museum's curators and participate in the scientific process. They also receive encouragement to seek careers in the sciences. The program particularly seeks students whose access to resources may be limited or nonexistent.

The students may select from one of three disciplines: paleontology, zoology, or health sciences. Dr. Nicole Garneau is the mentor for the health sciences students. The scholars work with Dr. Garneau on the Genetics of Taste: A Flavor for Health research project in Lab Central in Expedition Health.  The students extract and process DNA for gene sequencing and ancestry analysis.

"I've always loved math and science, but I wasn't sure what I could do with it," said Kaitlin Ching, a 2010 Teen Science Scholar. "This program gives me the opportunity to look at the big issues in the world of science, so I know what to concentrate on when I go to college next year."

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Click here if you or someone you know is interested in applying for the Denver Museum Teen Science Scholars program.


A Sweet Tasting Study

Human microbiome the focus of new research investigation into sweet taste


DENVER―Nov. 10― The Genetics of Taste Lab at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science is the new home to cutting-edge research on the human microbiome―the unique group of bacteria in and on each person’s body—and how it affects how we experience sweet taste. The study opened to the public for participation on Nov. 6. The scientific team, led by Museum Curator Nicole Garneau PhD, and Bowling Green State University Assistant Professor Robin Tucker PhD, RD, will use this novel model of crowdsourcing to test their hypothesis that certain compositions of mouth bacteria increases a person’s “sweet tooth,” thereby affecting overall health.

“Microbes can be found all over your body. The biggest concentrations are located in your gut, mouth, and on the surface of your skin. This collection of microbes in and on you is unlike anyone else’s and is more unique to you than your fingerprint,” Garneau said. “Delineating the human microbiome is truly the next big discovery. It’s akin to how sequencing the human genome changed the landscape of the health industry, advancing our understanding of how the body works and therefore how to diagnose and fix it when it doesn’t, “she added.

“With the community’s involvement, this study will help us understand how the microbes in a person’s mouth might actually influence how we experience sweet taste. Differences in microbial composition could be another key to understanding sweet preferences and how the microbiome affects our overall health through the foods we choose and enjoy.” Tucker added.

The Genetics of Taste Lab is a one-of-a-kind space for conducting research. It exclusively relies on members of the public to both provide population data through crowdsourcing and also conduct the analysis through the Lab’s citizen scientist program. Crowdsourcing recruits members of the public for a 30-minute enrollment session in which participants answer a few questions, swab a cheek for DNA, and taste a series of sweetened water samples. This experience is guided by citizen scientists – people who volunteer their time helping collect the data from the public participants and then help process and analyze the genetic data alongside the Lab’s scientists. The goal is to enroll 1,000 people over the course of the nine-month study. Children ages 8 to 17 are welcome to participate with a legal guardian present.

“We highly encourage family groups, large and small, close and extended, to come out and be a part of this research,” said Garneau. “And we always welcome twins and multiples, which help us answer additional questions about taste genetics.”

This is the third study for the Genetics of Taste Lab with a focus on how very small distinctions in a person’s DNA can have a huge impact on how they perceive taste and how taste relates to overall health. Visit the Genetics of Taste Lab website ( for free access to all publications from the lab and to learn more about the progress of this current research.

“The Lab is committed to making scientific research accessible and personally relevant to people’s everyday lives,” Garneau said. “Actively generating and publishing new knowledge contributes to the field of genetics and human health.”

The Genetics of Taste Lab is located in Expedition Health, the Museum’s very popular exhibition about human biology, and the research is made possible by a partnership between the Health Science and Visitor Programs Departments at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the Department of Public and Allied Health at Bowling Green State University. In addition to participating in citizen-scientist projects, visitors can peer into the real working genetics lab 364 days a year. (The Museum is closed on Dec. 25.) Enrollment will be available daily on a first come-first served basis from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. For large family groups, we encourage you to email to schedule an appointment. 

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