The MicroPopulous of Edinburgh

Microorganisms in a few micro litres of Edinburgh stream water revealed by the motion tracks that they make at 200-times magnification (below).  (apologies for the cracked iPhone screen)

 

35.68 second exposure

35.68 second exposure

I recently rain an Exploring The Invisible workshop with ASCUS at the Edinburgh International Science Festival 2017. As part of this we recorded the tracks made by microorganisms (200-times magnification) in a few scant micro litres of water collected from an Edinburgh stream.

The tracks remind me very much of the tracks made by atomic particle collisions, and radioactive decay, as recorded in cloud and bubble chambers, and whilst Edinburgh’s human inhabitants go about their daily lives, the city vibrates to this incalculable frenzy of invisible biological wavelengths and frequencies.

48.54 second exposure

48.54 second exposure

It’s easy for us to overlook this microscopic life because of it’s diminutive size and our unconscious macroscopic bias. Here though it’s not size that matters but numbers and activity, and thus in many ways the impact of this invisible world dwarfs the biology that we can see with our unaided eyes. We can choose ignore this domain of life,  but we will never extricate ourselves from it as its energies permeate through everything else that lives and even our cities as here.  As our activities change our planet, this vast realm of invisible life is responding and adapting, and will in turn influence dramatically the process of change in ways we are only just starting to understand.

54.40 second exposure.

54.40 second exposure

56.26 second exposure.

56.26 second exposure.

25.85 second exposure.

25.85 second exposure.

46.58 second exposure.

46.58 second exposure.

22.97 second exposure.

22.97 second exposure.

37.41 second exposure.

37.41 second exposure.

57.29 second exposure.

57.29 second exposure.

39.62 second exposure

39.62 second exposure.

91.69 second exposure.

91.69 second exposure

92.99 second exposure

92.99 second exposure

56.15 second exposure

56.15 second exposure

38.69 second exposure

38.69 second exposure

 

 

Untitled (Purple, White, and Red). Chromobacterium violaceum, Serratia marcescens, and Cloxacillin on Silk

R1R2R3

A generative and  bacterial “Rothko” for the age of Antimicrobial Resistance. The red-pigmented bacterium Serratia marcescens and the purple-pigmented bacterium Chromobacterium violaceum were both inoculated onto silk (where the darker colours are) at opposite ends to each other. Initially confined to the site of their inoculation, both bacteria soon swarm through the silk material and colour it with their respective pigments as they infiltrate its fibres. The twist here is that there are also four,  at first invisible,  circles containing  the antibiotic Cloxacillin that are only revealed after the two bacteria encounter and then respond to this drug. Red is sensitive to the antibiotic, is thus is killed upon contact,  and cannot occupy the spaces impregnated with it (the white silk circles). On the other hand,  Purple is multiply antibiotic resistant and thus still thrives in the presence of Cloxacillin, occupying the antibiotic impregnated  silk where Red cannot.

The mE.coli Project: Bespoke Microbiomic Couture.

 

 

J2

Glass-like Jewels for Microbiomic Couture, made from mE. coli

J1

Glass-like Jewels for Microbiomic Couture, made from mE. coli

Traditionally what we consider to be “self” is restricted to the collection of 10 trillion or so eukaryotic cells that derive directly from our own human genomes. However, the sequencing technologies of the 21st century are radically redefining this view, so that “self” can now be seen to extend beyond the traditional precinct of our own visible form, and to now include our vast, complex,  and interacting bacterial ecologies. In fact, these normally invisible cells at least equal in number the count of our own human cells. Moreover, the bacteria that reside on or in our bodies are not merely present as passengers, but they empower us with metabolic functions far beyond the range of our own physiological capabilities. They may even be able to influence our health, emotions, and mental well-being.

IMG_2578

mE. coli grown on Nutrient Agar. Unremarkable in appearance but given away by its distinctive and sweet odour. 

 

The mE.coli project is an ongoing exploration of just one, yet very familiar species,  from my own human gut microbiota, namely E.coli. This bacterium is frequently the first bacterium to colonize human infants, and thence becomes a permanent colonizer of adults. In fact, every mammal on Earth is colonized with E. coli and it’s estimated that there are 10^21 E. coli cells in our planet’s human population alone.

MEC1

mE. coli  grown on Eosin Methylene Blue Agar. Given away by its activity which leads to its distinctive purple and chrome-green appearance 

MEC2

mE. coli grown on Eosin Methylene Blue Agar. Given away by its activity which leads to its distinctive purple and chrome-green appearance

 

Ultimately, the mE.coli project seeks to repurpose this aspect my own gut microbiota/faeces, to coax it into producing cellulose, and thus to eventually make clothing from it. Meanwhile, this interim project uses my own strains of E.coli (mE. coli) and their activity to directly colour and decorate textiles. In doing so it takes something that is hidden, internal, and yet vital, and reveals it through clothing that is worn, usually as a form of display or celebration, on the outside of our bodies.

 

MeLACE

Lace impregnated with and coloured by the activity of mE. coli

 

IMG_4190 2

The plain cotton lace prior to impregnation with mE. coli