Plants Veracruz

Chromatography Gallery

Veracruz Day#5

Soil Chromatography is an incredibly interesting way to visualise our soil and the biological processes that are occurring within it. For me, it is also the point where science and art intersect.
You’ll be able to read all about the how and the why of Chromatography in the Manual on Soil testing that we are producing at the #LabICMx but I thought I’d share some of the photos from the day.

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Preparing the chromatography paper


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Preparing the Silver Nitrate Solution


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A soil picture forming, 1 hour after placing the filter paper and wick in the soil solution.

2014_11_29_LOMBRIZ1_CroppedA soil picture, 15 hours after placing the filter paper and wick in the soil solution.

I can’t wait to try this technique with many different types of soil and other things like vegetables and foods… Art and science… Amazing!

Veracruz Day #4

Today we headed out to do our field work with the Urban Lab at Boca del Rio. In all we collected samples from 4 different sites.

Site 1 was visit to a kids daycare centre where in the near future a veggie garden will be installed. 2014-11-26 17.31.502014-11-26 17.33.20

The house of Santiago’s mum was the site of our 2nd visit. They have a lovely 2 hectares with dogs, chickens, ducks, pigs and a large veggie garden. And would you believe it, the family is from Catalunya! As they say, the world is a tissue… (or is that only in Spanish???)2014-11-26 18.18.54 2014-11-26 18.20.29

We then headed back to the lab to take some samples from the land there before riding bikes provided by the Boca del Rio council to take some samples from the beach.

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All in all a great day out in the field (much nicer than being in the office!!!) and a huge thanks to Alejandra, Alexandro and Santiago from the Laboratorio Urbano and Citycultores for being our guides for the day!

Veracruz Day#2

First real day of work today… Good to have a clear idea of what we are going to be doing in the next 2 weeks, to bring out all the doubts, have a resolution to the doubts, have more doubts arise and more solutions… that for me is what this lab is all about, a group of people from different backgrounds coming together and working together on a singular project, each person with their expertise bringing up more questions and then coming up with the answers themselves.

Today we defined what the objectives for the next 10 days will be. Who is going to be doing what. Brainstorming. What things can we add to the project, what things should we take out. Debating. Defining. Clarifying. 2014-11-24 19.31.42

We have Tania, Lucia and Marcos working on the programming of the APP and Questionnaire as well as looking at different options for mapping.
Bris and Daniela are looking at plants as bioindicators/context indicators.
Karla and Alaide researching traditional and DIY soil tests.
Jorge is our chemical genius and he’s preparing everything for our chromatography tests that hopefully we’ll get done on Thursday.

It is a relief to be started, to have our goals set and to know what we are working towards.
Tomorrow we’ll continue with the work we started today, really define what tests we are going to do when we visit a future urban farm on Wednesday with the lovely folks from the Laboratorio Urbano Boca del Rio.

Veracruz Day #1

First full day at the Citizen Science lab in Veracruz today.

After four days scouting around the city for urban gardens it was great to arrive to the hotel yesterday where all the attendees were staying and meet the people that we are going to be working with over the next 12 days.

There was the obligatory welcome cocktail (piña colada, we are in Mexico of course) and then it was time to mingle. It really is amazing to be among people from so many countries with so many big ideas…

Official Day#1 at the lab started with buses taking us to the brand spanking new Biblioteca Digital TELMEX. This place is amazing. Huge. White. Light.
It’s in the middle of a recently built shopping mall and the shopping mall is in the middle of… nothing… literally it is a shopping mall surrounded by empty land. Soon to be built into a new city. But first comes the most important things… the ralph lauren store… the sketchers store… the apple store….right?????

And here is where we introduce the team for the next two weeks (well in the photo we’re missing Lucia, but I’m sure she’ll appear later on…)
2014-11-23 16.53.24We have a really multidisciplinary team with backgrounds ranging from Biology to Soil Science to Computer programming to Architecture to Chemistry to Electrical Circuits to Traditional Mexican dance and song to Mapping to Permaculture to Environmental Engineering to…. All I can say is that I’m stoked. I am excited to think about all the things that we are going to learn from each other in the coming weeks. Thanks to Alaide, Brisceida, Karla, Tania, Daniela, Marcos, Jorge and Lucia for giving up their time to come and help us move this project forward.

Tomorrow will be when we really knuckle down and work out what we want to achieve from the next two weeks. A “critical session” with our two mentors Felipe and Cinthia will help us focus our efforts.

Till then… a photo of our work space in the la Biblioteca Digital Telmex Veracruz2014-11-24 01.30.40

Collaborators for Mexico!

This week the group of people that are going to be helping us develop our Soil, Food and the City project at the Medialab Prado workshop in Veracruz was chosen.

You can check out who is heading to Mexico for all the different projects here.

We can’t wait to meet this group and start sharing ideas!

We’re also going to start trying out different protocols to have an idea of what works and what doesn’t before we arrive to the lab!

Laboratorio Iberoamericano de Innovación Ciudadana.

Good news this week; Our project “Soil, Food and the City” (“Suelo, Ciudad y Alimento“) was one of ten projects selected from around the world to be developed at the MediaLab Prado Citizen Innovation workshop to be held in Veracruz, Mexico, in November.

The objective of this project is to create a low-cost tool that we can use to evaluate the quality of soil in an urban setting. With this tool we’ll be able to map empty lots in the city which have the potential to be used to grow food, with the end goal of achieving food sovereignty and security.

To create this global picture of urban soil quality we’ll conduct various tests. These tests would be conventially divided into three ‘boxes’ or subsets of tests, each with its peculiarities and advantages. The kits consist of affordable and sufficiently qualitative tests for the assessment of soil properties in urban and peri-urban sites. The complementary nature of each test will help citizens and scientists to gain an overall understanding of soil health and processes.

So if you think you’d be interesting in helping us develop this project, or to learn more about the workshops as a whole check out the collaborators page here.

mediaLab Prado: Laboratorio Iberoamericano de Innovación Ciudadana

This week we’ve sent off a project that we hope will be included in the MediaLab Prado “citizen innovation” workshops that will be held in late November in Veracruz, Mexico.

Our project relates to soil health in urban and peri-urban areas and how ordinary citizens around the world can learn more about their soil, its processes, what it contains, and even how to improve it using open source tools. Click the pic below to read more about the workshop.

We’ll know if we will be on our way to Mexico in the first week of September, so until then, fingers crossed as we tend to the veggie garden!



Citizen science?

Currently there is a huge divide between the “scientific” world and the general public. The responsibility to protect and preserve our natural environment as well as to maintain our food security has been placed in the hands of too few people. And unfortunately it is way to common for these people to have political pressures to act in one way or another, and not always in the best interest of the general public. These figures too often bow down to big businesses and money. You only have to look at how many corruption cases are being held around the world involving political figures or people meant to be representing “our” best interests.

So what about citizen science? This is something that is meant to bridge the gap between politicians, those guys in white labcoats sitting behind a microscope, and you, a citizen of the world. Through citizen science, we can have millions of individuals, trained to observe and record, collecting data from all over the globe. The information gained through citizens world wide looking at what is happening in their backyard creates “study sites” in many more places than would ever be possible by just scientists alone. And it connects us back into a system in which we NEED to take more responsibility.