Denver Museum of Nature & Science Launches Savory and Sour Taste Study

Community members invited to participate in studying impact of acid on savory taste


DENVER ― The Genetics of Taste Lab at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science has chosen the universal culinary combination of savory and sour for its latest taste study, launching Nov. 20. The Museum invites the community to participate in the study, which looks at how different levels of sour (acid) impact the way people experience the taste of umami (savory).


The Savory and Sour Study will also assist researchers, led by Joseph Polman, associate dean for research at the University of Colorado, who are examining how citizen scientists learn in community labs and the long-term impacts from their involvement. The research is supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Science Education Partnership Award program.


“We want to connect our research to daily life, and taste is something we all do every day,” said Nicole Garneau, curator and principal investigator of the Genetics of Taste Lab at the Museum. “Surprisingly little is known about the way people experience different tastes in combination. This study is designed to help us understand how sour impacts the taste of umami and whether genetics plays a role.”


Through the Genetics of Taste Lab, the Museum helps guests discover genetics in fun, safe ways by connecting concepts to food, drink and eating. Previous studies have helped to debunk the term “supertaster,” have provided evidence that fat is the sixth taste, and have explored how the human microbiome ― the unique group of bacteria in and on each person’s body — affects the way we taste sweet.


At the Lab, community scientists use crowdsourcing to recruit members of the public to participate in a 30-minute enrollment session. Participants answer a few questions, swab their mouth for DNA, and do a series of taste tests using flavored water samples. The goal is to enroll up to 2,500 people over the course of the nine-month study. Children ages 8 to 17 are welcome to participate with a legal guardian present.


Free access to all of the lab’s publications is available at


The Genetics of Taste Lab is located in “Expedition Health,” the Museum’s very popular exhibition focused on human biology. In addition to participating in community science projects, visitors can peer into the real working genetics lab 364 days a year. (The Museum is closed Dec. 25.)


Enrollment is free with paid admission to the Museum, and will be available daily on a first-come, first-served basis from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. beginning Nov. 20. For large family groups interested in participating, email [email protected] to schedule an appointment.


Media Previews

Media previews are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Nov. 6 –10 and Nov. 13 – 17, and include an interview with Principal Investigator Nicole Garneau (in English) or Community Liaison Esmarie Swisher (in Spanish) and the option to participate in the study. Please contact Maura O’Neal, [email protected], to schedule a preview.


The Genetics of Taste Lab is supported in part by a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health (Award # R25OD021909).

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