User:Rachel F. Boyce/Notebook/AlgalBOOM

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Project Description/Abstract

In which I'm attempting to use bioluminescent micro-alga P. lunula in a video-projected, sound-reactive, bio-art installation. I'm acquiring many new skills in order to see this project through, and I hope to amass some DIY-Bio techniques and protocols along the way as well.


  • Current challenges:
    • Create a sensitive sound transducer
    • Quantify light emissions from algae grown in varying conditions
  • Other tasks:
    • Continue to propagate algae

2012 Nov 10

Ordered 150ml cultures of two dinoflagellate species (P. lunula and P. fusiformis) from - expected arrival date 11/12 or 11/13!

2012 Nov 16

Dinoflagellate cultures arrived from Empco, P. lunula already exhibiting bioluminescence when disturbed - despite being shipped in a lightless styrofoam box. The culture of P. fusiformis may be more fastidious, will check on it again tomorrow, after it's had a chance to snack on some sunlight.

Temps in my studio have been relatively high (78-82 deg F) due to the recent installation of new heaters. I've been fiddling with the heat settings and will try to adjust it down so that the area near the window stays around 75 deg F. Unsure if the East-facing window will provide optimal light conditions, I might look into getting a fluorescent lamp - my other houseplants would probably love that as well!

2012 Nov 23

Both cultures appear to be growing well, though P. lunula continues to appear to be the more robust of the two species.

I began experimenting with a setup to record & amplify the light from the algae, using a IPevo Point 2 document camera. I took apart an Altec-Lansing Orbit speaker, and placed about 10mL of the P. lunula culture onto the speaker cone. The liquid medium was quite agitated by the audio signal (Massive Attack's Heligoland) but the algae did not exhibit exitatory response and did not glow. The 640x480px resolution was at 15fps - this was sufficiently detailed to make out some of the patterns in the liquid medium when lit by a flashlight, but is probably not high enough quality to take print-quality stills, or video.

I believe that either the area of the small speaker cone was not large enough to contain many light-producing colonies of algae, or the culture should mature further. I will experiment again in a week when the cell density of the culture is greater.

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