Below the Below
Our habit is to gaze in our frontal plane, turning occasionally east and west, above and below – but what of the world below the below – the disconnected landscape of Archaea? Archaea are microorganisms with an ancient evolutionary lineage that traces back to the very origins of life on Earth, and yet which will still play a vital role in our future.
I have started a new series of projects interweaving art and science with microbiologist/molecular biologist Dr Simon Park of University of Surrey. The focus of the Immortal Worlds? series of projects, is on mapping this unseen world of methanogens and how climate change will impact on these major producers of methane. This gas is a significant greenhouse gas, and per unit, far more so than carbon dioxide, and the Archaea form a domain of single-celled microorganisms that is responsible for 70% of methane in the atmosphere, thereby making them a potent force on the Earth.
Immortal Worlds? aims to create provocative and innovative collaborative studies, that will not only experimentally and critically engage art and science, but will also spark debate about our rapidly changing world.
What will happen to this parallel world, hidden from our view, as the planet warms up?
What impact will this change have on the Earth and ourselves?
We started the investigation last Sunday by extracting mud samples of saltwater wetland in Norfolk.
The four columns of mud are now being monitored under laboratory-controlled conditions – to study the nature of the changes when the methanogens are subjected to a sustained rise in temperature of 20 degrees and 30 degrees centigrade. After seven weeks the new ecosystems will have established themselves in the glass vessels and the results will be documented.