First Week at Roscoff Marine Station

Monday

We were introduced to the lab. It overlooks a cemetery and a bit further, the Atlantic ocean. Not bad at all. Not to mention it is equipped with seawater running directly from the tap. Wet dreams of marine biologists everywhere.

Tuesday

Getting to know the ropes. Making plans. Realising how quickly we become ambitious. But basically: - we want to set up a nursery with Acidians, Roscoff worms and sea urchins and experiment with their development - make short films of marine animals - record sound (Robertina) - tinting film with natural dyes, do 16 mm time lapse, work with bioluminescent organisms (Carole)

Wednesday

I begin by digging into literature - I read about the circatidal and circalunar rhythms of marine organisms, alternative concepts of governance based on communal instead of individual benefit (sumbiocracy and symbiocene), cognitive capitalism, and, of course, the research on Roscoff worms.

I order human sex hormones estradiol, progesterone and testosterone for the experiments on the early embryonic development of sea urchins and ascidians. Getting a chance to work with these organisms is truly a privilege as they are very sensitive to xenohormones.

Friday

Collected Symsagittifera roscoffensis with Xavier and his assistants – the animalga – while admiring the biggest tide of the year. Went to pick the “fruit of the sea” at Calot island along hundreds of enthusiastic locals. It's the day of the year to hunt for scallops, lobsters and shellfish of all kinds.

Weekend

On Saturday we had a brief presentation of our previous artistic work and planned research activities to the local Roscoff community at the Espace Mathurin Meheut.

Second week at Roscoff Marine Station

Monday

Went on a “moonwalk” far out into the sea to look for cuttlefish eggs. They are laying at this time. Didn't find any but the subaquatic seascape laid bare is breathtaking.

Tuesday

Dissected two species of ascidians - Cionia intestinalis and Phallusia mammilata to collect oocytes and sperm. Cross-fertilised them. Strangely no divisions took place… Found a small slug in one of the aquariums. Suspicion confirmed – it's the kleptoplastic one. Admired it under the stereoscope. Wednesday

Named our organisms: The Elysia viridis (photosynthetic sea slug) is now called Penelope; she is starring in Carole's movie. And the lobster is Homer.

Thursday

Another experiment with ascidian fertilisation! This time it worked. The cells were divining almost three times every hour. Within 24 hours we already saw a larvae with eyes, ready to attach.

Friday

Keeping all the babies alive is tough. 2,5 hours for changing the water and feeding the larvae each day.

Third week at Roscoff Marine Station

Monday Tuesday Wednesday

I begin with the steroid isolation protocol. Collecting urine, passing it through a C18 column and finally eluting the steroids with methanol. Mmmm.

Thursday Friday

After 3 weeks, this is what the ascidian (Ciona intestinalis) looks like:

Fourth and, unfortunately, final week at Roscoff Marine Station

As research endeavours go, the most interesting developments happen during the last few hours of the residency, while your luggage is piled in the lobby and your mind is schizophrenically balancing 30 days on a needle point in time. The Roscoff residency was no exception. Alas, these amazing results from arose.

This graph represents the way ever lower concentrations of a cocktail of hormones (progesterone, testosterone and oestrogen) have strange, non-monotonic effects on the development of embryos, which goes against the intuition of toxicology. The unexpected heightened effect at lower concentrations calls into question the paradigm of a “safe concentration”. Endocrine disruptors have been shown to have this effect as well as many other species of molecules.

But what made me tingly all over was the result of sea urchins exposed to the activated urine extract. The urine extract exhibited a similar effect! This points to a strong indication that the molecules interfering with sea urchin development were of the signalling kind (endocrine disruptors) – bioindicators proving the steroid isolation was a success!

Follow up

I went on to further develop the steroid extraction device using appropriated laboratory equipment, making milkers of sorts which could be used in workshop settings. Here are some impressions from the latest DIY Human Enhancement Clinic, organised by Waag Society, Amsterdam, at the festival Border Sessions in the Hague, Netherlands.