Two Ways of Seeing

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The same murky green sample of pond water. One interpreation is  accessible to the unaided eye, the other only at 100-times magnification.

The MycoR Dress: a celebration of soil and the mycorrhizosphere

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Mycorrhizal fungi have occurred naturally in the soil for at least 450 million years, forming a close symbiotic relationship with plant roots. Plants and these mycorrhizal fungi operate as a single working unit in nature in which the plant performs photosynthesis, and the fungi facilitate underground nutrition-gathering and protect the roots. In fact, nearly all plants on earth rely on mycorrhizal fungi for nutrients and moisture, with many plants being extremely dependent on, and surviving poorly without such beneficial fungi. This coloured textile is made solely from the soil mycorrhizae. The material does not have improved structural or functional properties, and it is designed (and to be worn) with the sole purpose of celebrating the importance and diversity of the mycorrhizae.  It’s a first test and more elaborate forms and structures are envisaged for the future.

Immortal Worlds?: September Update 2014

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

Low Temperature System

High Temperature System

High Temperature System

 

Immortal Worlds? is a collaborative project between artist Jac Scott and myself, with our initial investigations being funded by an A-N New Collaboration Bursary. The focus of the project is on mapping the unseen, but vitally important world of bacteria and, particularly how climate change will impact on these organisms, which underpin all of the Earth’s many diverse and living ecosystems. We aim to create innovative and collaborative studies that will not only experimentally and critically engage art and science, but will also spark debate about our rapidly changing world. Our initial explorations have been to replicate natural microbial ecosystems from important environments like salt marshes, wilderness areas, and various water courses, and then to mimic the predicted effects of global warming, like increased temperature, in the laboratory, and finally to observe the outcome. These images are from microbial ecosystems that have been established from a salt marsh in Blakeney, Norfolk. They are nearly a year old now but still continue to develop.  One set of ecosystems has been incubated at temperatures that we might encounter today, and the others at a higher temperature that might be the outcome of global warming. The differences in the health and diversity of the ecologies is both striking and frightening. The low temperature ones and vibrant and dynamic, and I feel like I’m lookin down on another world, which of course I am.  Compare these complex ecologies with the higher temperature system which is dominated by a form of monotonous grey and anaerobic life.

Micro-Crystallography

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I read JG Ballard’s The Crystal World as a teenager,and it profoundly influenced my formative mind. I’ve had an obsession with the process of crystallisation ever since, the spontaneous emergence of a brittle order from the mobile chaos of the solution. Many years later in my scientific career I have regularly encountered crystalization in another form, that is X-ray Crystallography, which allows the structure of proteins to be determined at the atomic level after they have been coerced into forming crystals in the laboratory.Here I’m exploring crystallisation at a microscopic scale.  A culture of aquatic algae was mixed with ascorbic acid, and the mixture treated so as to allow crystals to form. In this unique process, the microorganisms become fixed and their nature preserved.  Each animalcule also  acts as a seed for the crystalization process, and subsequently controls the crystallization process happening around it, each giving rise to its own unique signature in a micrometre thin continuum of inseperable chemistry and life. The images were taken using a Nikon Eclipse Differential Interference Contrast Microscope using 100-200x magnification.