A deeper look at biotech + art

Foraging 

What an awesome idea -- finding green leafy edible plants in so many unexpected corners on campus! Although this is my first time trying foraging, the idea of foraging has been really appealing to me for a while. I greatly enjoyed kneeling down to the lawns/ sidewalk which we have never closely looked at and simply looking for leaves (we have found dandelions, clovers, honeysuckles and even tiny strawberries!) -- it feels like being fully involved in the ecosystem around us and "crossing a threshold to be of the world" when we started to dig in the reason why such activities produce this much satisfaction and comfort. What the SPURSE team mentioned as "urban comfort" is to connect our desire for a healthy natural food system with our urban environment, bypassing the problems of GM foods as well as accumulation of toxicity, etc. 

       

         

Pictures (taken by me) on our foraging trip. Figure 1 (to the leftmost) shows the dandelion leaves, cloves, tea-making flowers and indigestible grass. 

Mary and Mick's presentation

I was really inspired by Mary's journey of interviewing and documenting bio-artists in the US, looking for their thoughts on the true cultural/ social/ political implications of biotechnology in out community. One of the things that I'm very passionate about too is the DIY Bio space, lab spaces for public instead of in an academic, institutionalized or restricted environment. With the establishment of these public labs, people without highly specialized training are able to perform and understand hands-on scientific experiments as well. This allows the general public to have access to biotechnology and to learn the practice of biological science, not only raising public awareness of certain biomedical methods, but also demystifying science. Therefore more and more valuable discussions on social and ethical issues regarding biotechnology could be put on the table for this enlarging science-literate population. 

Bioremedition in Mick's presentation, on the other hand, is to apply biotechnology (usually microbes or other organisms) onto ecological sites to manage/ control waste or contamination. The application of bacteria that can utilize oil or fuel (oil-eating microbes) would be especially useful in situations like the Chevron oil spill along Brazilian coast in 2011, where tons of oil waste was managed in time because of the fast growth of bacterial generations, although I'm still a little skeptical about the negative impacts from the rocketing population of novel bacteria  on the original ecosystem and diversity. 

    

A 155,000 gallons of crude oil spill in Brazilian gulf (left). Oil-eating microbes biodegrade hydrocarbons in the gulf of Mexico (right).

References

DIY-Bio. http://diybio.org

DIYSECT. http://diysect.org

Oil-eating Microbes Have the Appetite for Crude, but Do They Have the Stomach? 2010. Online. http://truth-out.org/archive/component/k2/item/92124:oileating-microbes-have-the-appetite-for-crude-but-do-they-have-the-stomach

Scientists say hungry microbes ate giant BP oil plume. 2010. Online. http://inhabitat.com/scientists-say-hungry-microbes-ate-giant-bp-gulf-oil-plume/ 

SPURSE- What We're Thinking. http://www.spurse.org/what-we-are-thinking/foraging-live-feeds/