Isoculture experiment 1

6th March - 19th March 2013


Tardigrades (commonly known as waterbears or moss piglets) are small, water-dwelling, segmented animals with eight legs. They are notable for being one of the most complex of all known polyextremophiles. (An extremophile is an organism that can thrive in a physically or geochemically extreme condition that would be detrimental to most life on Earth.)



Isoculture experiment 2

20th March - 26th May

Ant colony

An ant colony lives in an enclosure designed to replicate the boundaries of an Isoculture to observe how the organisms follow instinctive laws of emergent systems to design their surroundings. The ant’s response and reaction to the space is used to offer the Isoculture planners a glimpse of how the city might grow organically to the fundamental requirements of life, rather than the planners presuming how the city should function.

Observations to date:
The ants have followed some distinct patterns in the construction of their habitat. They have made the central tower their living quarters. This is slightly unexpected as we started with a hypothesis that they would dig in the gel medium and build a network of tunnels. Instead they have chosen the test tube at the top of the tower as their central space.
The ants have chosen to take the majority of their waste to one side of the sphere and have been observed eating/digging at the opposite side.

The gel that fills the lower half of the sphere is a nutritious ant food, as well as being a medium for them to dig tunnels. Instead of living inside the gel, like most ant aquariums, our Isoculture ants have stayed on the tower and descend down to the gel to eat before returning.

In the gel you will also see some growth of mould. This is slightly unexpected, but a good lesson for our Isoculture planning. The treatment of waste and delicate balance of the internal ecosystem is one of the key areas to be considered in the Isoculture design. Interestingly, Martin Hall, a speaker in our Isoculture lab who was a former horticulturist at the Eden Project and also helped design the semi-arid biome of the Biosphere 2 project in the Arizona desert, told us of the importance of learning from unexpected events. In the Biosphere 2 project, scientists hadn’t anticipated the increase in carbon dioxide levels in the greenhouses, which was produced from rotting compost and its release from the concrete. Similarly, our ants and the mould-growths show us that when designing our Isoculture we should also be prepared for unexpected events and to be resourceful in reaction to these.




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