Poop is important. Sure it’s not all that much fun to talk about, especially if you find yourself having a health issue that has to do with it, but it’s important and can even save your life. Apparently, it can also look kind of cool, too. The image above was created by Dr Nicola Fawcett from the University of Oxford, and it was submitted to the American Society of Microbiology’s Agar Art competition. And guess what? It’s actually made from poop! Fawcett works on the University’s ‘Antibiotic Resistance in the Microbiome OxfoRD (ARMORD) Study’, which is where she “learns about the gut bacteria of Oxfordshire adults by studying poo samples,” to “see how factors like antibiotics, diet, travel and contact with hospitals affect the gut bacteria.” That’s not a job for everyone, but it’s incredibly important and someone has to do it. She worked with artist Anna Dumitriu and photographer Chris Wood to create the work of art above.
She explains what you can see when you look at it:
The piece is made from a mixture of three common gut bacteria – purple E.coli, turquoise Citrobacter, and a tiny, tiny amount of dark blue Klebsiella (over 500 times less than the other bacteria). The bacteria were stamped onto the agar, and then left to grow overnight. Each small round ‘dot’ represents a bacterial colony (which may in itself contain a few million individual bacteria, growing together)… Mostly the bacterial colonies are so close, they merge together. You can see that generally the more numerous purple and turquoise bacteria can out-compete the dark blue Klebsiella, so that the Klebsiella colonies can only grow as big as pinpricks. This is similar to what happens in the gut, where ‘beneficial’ bacteria can out-compete more harmful ones and keep them under control.
I actually kind of like it. I don’t think I’d ever keep it in my home art collection, but it kind of looks like ivy, and that’s pretty cool.
Fawcett wrote a long and interesting post about how she made this piece of poop art, not to mention she talked about the science behind it. If that’s the kind of thing you’re into, the piece is well worth the read through.