September 21, 2011
Dr. Joe Latimer is a microbiological rock star: he survived four days of mud, sweat and tears at Glastonbury, our most intense event ever (by a long shot). And he came back for more at Bestival, where he proudly displayed a microbial colony grown from his own rectum and taught us all how to treasure our bacterial brethren. Read his tales from his summer of renegade research: “I hope we convinced at least a few people that bacteria don’t just infect us, or live on us, but that they are us.”
What do dirty secrets, loud music, lost voices, sleep-deprivation, sweaty armpits, the apocalypse, drunken shenanigans, “superbugs”, swabbing strangers, overcoming phobias, making friends, and freaking the hell out of the general public all have in common? Well luckily for me, this summer all were part of my ‘other’ job – festival microbiologist!
In normal life I am a research scientist at the University of Manchester, and I love the microbiological work I do: figuring out how and why different antibacterial chemicals kill different types of bacteria and what makes them resistant. But for two long weekends I was lucky enough to leave behind the minutiae of pipettes and paperwork and instead bring the wider world of microbiology to festival-goers at Glastonbury and Bestival.
As soon as my boss, Dr Andrew McBain, said he had been approached by Guerilla Science, my labmate Sarah Forbes and I signed up straight away. Just a few weeks later, we were sitting in front of our lovingly hand-grown “Microbial Zoo”, at the front of a Decontamination Unit, in the pre-apocalyptic nightmare city of sin Shangri La at the Glastonbury Festival.
September 16, 2011
A showcase of the flora and fauna of the human body, grown by Gavin Humphreys and Joe Latimer.
For our Glastonbury zoo,
Joe grew 20 different individual species of bacteria. This time, they took swabs from various body parts – the eye, ear, and (of course) bum – and grew wee assemblages of species on plates. Joe drew them from his very own body. “This time it’s personal.”
Part of the Wellcome Trust’s gorgeously grimy Dirt season of events.
June 12, 2011
Bioluminescent bacteria – responsible for the “milky seas” described by sailors for many centuries – joined us at Project Ocean courtesy of microbiologist Simon Park of the University of Surrey.