Soil Exploration Program
MA Studio 1 Course FS22
Biodesign Challenge Finalist Project 2022
Instructors: Karmen Franinović, Duy Bui
Advisors: Joëlle Bitton, Roman Kirschner
What if we could look at soil with hope and fascination, the same fascination we have when looking at the first moon landing or the hope we hold for the discovery of life forms on Mars? Microbes in the soil are in fact truly alien to us as we don’t know the great majority of them. By using an analogy to space exploration, different questions about how we perceive soil research open up.
In a context of a global antimicrobial resistance and ecological crisis, the Soil Exploration Program (S.E.P) is a fictional organization that aims to bring focus down to the ground. The goal of this project is to push soil exploration forward and to show the possible implications of new microbial discoveries.
99% of soil bacteria are not cultivable in labs, therefore those microbes cannot be isolated and researched in detail. These represents not only a great lack of understanding of the biodiversity of planet Earth, but also a huge potential to solve existential problems that humanity is facing today and in the near future. In a collaboration with researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), this project focuses on improving upon the state-of-the-art in soil microbe cultivation by developing a functioning device, and further theorizing on possible applications of this technology, as well as possible approaches to involve interested citizens in the process of soil exploration.