There are more microbial species on Earth than stars in the galaxy. Thanks to DNA sequencing we are now able to “see” them and understand how they too are in peril. “

BIOTA is a data visualization installation that explores biodiversity loss through the micro-macro lens of new sensing technologies. From DNA sequencing to satellite remote sensing to micro algae production, the artist investigates data and imagery from these new methods of scientific exploration. In collaboration with local environmental organizations, biology labs and field scientists, the team used DNA sequencing technologies to analyze DNA strands of one water sample collected from the Rio Fernando which feeds into the Rio Grande. The DNA results showed 700 microbial species and their abundance level. According to an article in NATURE magazine, “While invisible to the naked eye and thus somewhat intangible7, the abundance (~1030 total bacteria and archaea)8 and diversity of microorganisms underlie their role in maintaining a healthy global ecosystem: simply put, the microbial world constitutes the life support system of the biosphere.”

Agnes collaborated with Marcel Schwittlick who wrote the data visualization code in OpenFrameworks. This bio-data was used to generate an algorithmic pattern of growing circles visualizing the diversity of species collected from the water sample. The data derived from DNA sequencing revealed 700 species living in the water sample.  The algorithm is projected into the liquid bubbles which contain live freshwater microalgae to highlight their role as a bio tool for climate change mitigation and restoring biodiversity in water. Microalgae produces approximately half of the atmospheric oxygen while using carbon dioxide to grow photoautotrophically.

Medium: Copolyester, fiber optics, projector, Openframework code, microalgae

Interdisciplinary Team:  Marcel Schwittlick, artist/coder for data visualization

Mr. DNA, DNA Sequencing; Elhanan Borenstein, Associate Professor of Genome Sciences, University of Washington; Luke Spangenburg, Santa Fe Community College Trade and Technology Center, algae samples; Shannon Romeling/Amigos Bravos, advisor,; Rich Schrader/River Source, advisor; Katie Bryant, Upward Bound Math & Science, advisor; Taos Land Trust staff, advisors; Screen Solutions International, Sponsor/advisor; Cisneros Sheet Metal, Sponsor; Glasco, Sponsor;  Viola Arduini, Advisor; CERN Data Center, copolyester fiber optic form development from Fluidic Data.

Contact us to bring the BIOTA installation to your festival or exhibition. DNA sequencing can be adapted for the water samples in your region.