Some unexpected critters

Well…a lot has happened over the last few weeks. I have officially set up camp in the pretty well decked out basement space, complete with microscope bench, non-food fridge, microwave and plant culture area. The great (or frustrating,  depending on your perspective) thing about biology is that you often get unexpected results and infestations.  Some are pretty cool, while others are rather annoying and can really hinder your progress.  One of the cool ones is the recent discovery of algae, bacteria and protists that I may have brought in on some plant cuttings and roots from home.  I discovered them when the base of my beaker in the lab space started to become increasingly green.

Some unexpected life discovered in a beaker of plant cuttings at The Edge.

Some unexpected life discovered in a beaker of plant cuttings at The Edge.

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While I am certainly not an expert in this area, I think we are dealing with chorella algae, as they certainly look the part.  The algae in the beaker are single celled and non-motile, both characteristics of this particular type of algae. Chorella is also a common pond ‘scum’ in Australia, so it is certainly possible that they hitched a lift to The Edge on the roots of some of the plants I brought in.  If they are chorella, then I am pretty happy as this means that this miniature pond is pretty safe.  Indeed, chorella has even been labelled a potenial ‘superfood’ and future nutrient source.  The other organisms that populate this little micro-world are more difficult to identify.  If anyone has any ideas….please let us know…

Some other unexpected visitors include these little red-eyed Drosophila (fruit fly).  A fruit fly must have laid eggs into some of my plant ‘sludge’ that I was using to experiment with making paint from plant materials.  A few weeks later, and we have a thriving little community of flies.  A lesson for me to be more careful with my material preparation and storage!

A jar of fruit flies.

A jar of fruit flies.

While we humans may not be the biggest fans of flies in general, we really should be pretty grateful to the humble fruit fly.  They have been used as a model organism for many years and have taught us a lot about genetics and inheritance.  The ones we have in the basement are the wild type, characterised by red eyes with black rings on their abdomen.

Little fruit fly with visible red eyes.

Little fruit fly with visible red eyes.

While the pond life and fruit flies were not entirely unwelcome guests, the recurring bacterial, mould and fungal colonies from the initial kombucha contamination are.  They unfortunately seem to have taken hold, despite numerous rigorous cleaning and sterilising days.

Culture contamination.

Culture contamination.

More contamination.

More contamination.

From my IHBI days, I recall that once a fungal infection has ocurred, it is notoriously difficult to erradicate.  When we had a fungal outbreak in the primary lab a few years ago, the entire room had to be fumigated and all samples discarded, to ensure permanent erradication.

While they are killing many of my plant culture experiments before they get started, they are still quite spectacular, expecially when observed under the microscope.

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These unanticipated guests have prompted me to consider making an artwork that engages with such unexpected outcomes and visitors 🙂  As such, I am planning to culture the fruit flies and pond life.  I will just stick to documenting the contamination though!

 

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