Holobiont Urbanism Employs Bees and Sparks Interest in Microbiomes

According to researchers in the Holobiont Urbanism project, we tend to look at the world in limited ways. We tend to think of our cities as vast collections of buildings and people; and we tend to think of the objects around us--chairs, tables, walls, subways--as lifeless. What are the alternatives?

The Holobiont Urbanism project “[invites] participants to reimagine the city they live in as more than a vast metropolis, but rather as a complex and adaptive biological superstructure.” It examines the complex relationships between humans, our neighborhoods, and the intricate systems of bacteria that live and thrive all around us.

The results of these studies are shared in imaginative ways on Holobiont Urbanism’s website. Through data art, video, and creative storytelling, the team shares their findings regarding the distinct systems of bacteria living in various neighborhoods of the Queens and Brooklyn boroughs.

Holobiont’s creativity is not just limited to the presentation of data: the group collects information in fascinating ways. Bees, for example, are actually a key collaborative member in the project. Because these insects travel within a one and a half mile radius of their hives, they can be examined to see which microbes they have “picked up” along their journeys--and these findings can be used to construct an image of what the microbial ecosystems in each neighborhood look like.

With the help of these honey bees (whose hives have been placed on various rooftops across New York, Sydney, Melbourne, Venice and Tokyo) Holobiont has been able to catalogue and analyze the different viruses, bacteria, and fungal microbes that live in distinct regions of our cities and our world.

Holobiont Urbanism is just one example of the many exciting microbiome research projects being conducted around the world. To learn more about the fascinating world of microbes living all around us, visit CosmosID online today.