Tuesday, 29 May 2012

BioText: Microgeographical statements that use unique bacterial inks to convey their message This text is generated by the bioluminescent bacterium Photobacterium phosphoreum.

Monday, 28 May 2012

BioGraffiti: Microgeography draws our attention away from the macroscopic world to one that is normally invisible.  Here graffiti using  bioluminescent bacteria, and their beguiling and lure-like light, does just this.  

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


Ecologies of the Sole:  These unconventional and unique maps trace microgeographical  journeys. They do  not report  distances, or reflect the visible layout of our cities or towns, but emerge from the  accumulated  microflora that we unintentionally gather on our travels.  In these examples, walkers were given a pair of sterile shoes, and after their own personal journeys, the microflora that had accumulated on the sole of these shoes developed by imprinting them on bacteriological growth media.    

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Rules: A community of photosynthetic algae on a road sign. In a world where we constantly seek to separate our world into the natural, urban  and domestic, microbes are obvious boundary breakers. The ceaseless majority who refuse to be constrained by our made rules and who might help us learn once again to live beyond our self-imposed borderlines.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Zones of Inhibition 2: Roof tops in the Georgian town of New Alresford  showing the Urban Cryptobiotic Crust (please see posts below for a description of the UCC) with obvious  zones of inhibition beneath the windows caused by lead runoff from the flashing beneath them. Lead is inimical to life including microorganisms.  These roof top microbial ecologies are striking in that they are  over 300 years old.

Monday, 14 May 2012

A Roof Enriched: A roof in a seaside village that has been embellished with a dense growth of orange lichen. The growth of the lichen is unusually prolific because seagulls have perched on the roof's apex and their nitrogen rich faeces has fertlized the ecology. Note also the striking areas of inhibition underneath the windows, caused by the runoff from the lead flashing poisoning the ecology.

Friday, 11 May 2012






Transduced Ecologies: Microgeography also embraces playful and inventive strategies which might take pedestrians off their predictable macroscopic paths and jolt them into a new awareness of the urban microbiological landscape. Here is such an intervention. Where there is opportunity life always finds a home. Fractures in the hard manmade continuum of our urban environments, cracks harbour overlooked but wondrous ecologies that are underpinned by microbial activity.  Here the natural ecology of a crack between concrete paving stones has been carefully removed and replaced by a natural deep marine ecology containing bioluminescent bacteria in order to draw attention to what is normally overlooked. 
Substrate Dependent Growth: The asbestos roof of a factory in Petersfield. The roof is made from two types of asbestos  that result in subtle changes in its microgeography.  The asbestos that makes up the larger area of roof is  inimical to the orange lichen but set within this are small panels of a different kind of asbestos that allows the same lichen to flourish.  

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Etched Metric: Over a period of many years an abandoned table has become covered in a dark patina of microbial growth. It might not look alive but this is another example a complex microbial ecology which I call the Urban Cryptobiotic Crust (UCC). Here a snail, a leviathan on the scale of the UCC, has fed on this ecology, and in revealing the sterile manmade substratum beneath, has highlighted the table’s microbiology and etched a telling metric into the extended surface of the table.  

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Terrestrial Reef:  Coral reefs form some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth and I was drawn by analogy to this here.  Windblown spores of algae, lichens, and moulds have accumulated on an abandoned jeep over a period of many years. These have germinated over time to establish their own complex ecology so that the jeep has become a terrestrial reef made up of microbiological life. The feeding trails of snails  can also be seen so already this flourishing ecology is capable of supporting more complex forms of life, as is the case with its marine counterpart.

The Urban Cryptobiotic Crust: Many of the roofs in our towns and cities have become covered in a dark patina of microbial growth. It might not look alive, but were we able to observe this thin layer with a microscope we would find an exotic and miniature forest inhabited by fungi, green algae and cyanobacteria. I call this ubiquitous but overlooked microbiological veneer, the Urban Cryptobiotic Crust (UCC).  Here the effluent from two fans, and the wash from a lead flashing, has prevented the growth of the UCC, and by causing visible zones of inhibition,  this has highlighted this overlooked ecology.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Trouble with Lichen: Where air quality permits, lichens are a ubiquitous microbiological component of our urban environments.  They are composite microorganisms comprising symbiotic partners, a fungus (the mycobiont) and a photosynthetic organism (the photobiont; usually an algae or  cyanobacterium).  Lichens produce an extraordinarily complex mixture of chemicals and whilst the function of many of these is not known,  some have been used  for the production of litmus, medicines and textile dyes. The plot of John Wyndham’s “Trouble with Lichen” concerns a young woman biochemist who discovers that a chemical extracted from a strain of lichen can be used to slow down the ageing process, enabling people to live to around 200–300 years and in his novel Wyndham speculates how society would deal with this prospect. This is a diptych of an ecology of lichens, an image taken using daylight (how we perceive them) and one taken using an ultraviolet light source to emphasize their important but usually invisible chemistry.

Rail Microclimate: Urban environments generate small microclimates that appropriate microbiological life. On an otherwise lifeless wall at the University of Surrey,  a metal rail has provided a microclimate that supports a community of photosynthetic algae. I was drawn to this by way that this ecology parallels the structure of the rail.