Bioluminescence Community Project

This project is currently on hold – looking for someone willing to lead it! Leading a community project involves coming up with some ideas of what to work on every week, welcoming any new people, giving them an introduction to the project, and finding some way to integrate them in the project. If you would like to help revive this very popular project, please email patrikd @

side_by_sideMany organisms create their own light, including fireflies, algae, fungi. and jellyfish. The Biocurious Bioluminescence Community project attracts people from all walks of life who are interested to learn about the science behind glowing organisms. Though, we all share a great passion for biota that bioluminesce, our interest derives from various places. To address our diversity, we have developed three primary tracks in the project.

First is to explore bioluminescence in the natural world. What kinds of creatures glow in the dark? What makes them glow? How long do they glow and what defines these cycles? How can we grow these creatures in the lab and observe them? In order to answer these questions, we’ve built a growth chamber and arduino light sensors to measure and record light output. We have also compared a variety of growth media and are now planning new tests to optimize their growth and light output.

The second track is for those folks interested in metabolic engineering. Can we identify which genes are involved in the biochemical reaction of bioluminescence? How can we remove these genes, enhance their output and insert them into other species? For example, currently, we are using synthetic biology to re-engineer E. coli with the bioluminescence pathways from another bacteria, Vibrio Fischeri. Additionally, we are attempting to insert these genes into other algae, Arabidopsis and Petunias to build a glow-in-the-dark plants. Avatar, here we come!

It’s not all hardcore biology though. The third track is Bioluminescence in Art. We’ve built a couple projects in the past (check out our Bioluminescent Hourglass Instructable) which create wonderful displays of the beauty of these natural organisms. Several artists are working on a new project at the lab to integrate music, standing waves and dinoflagellates, single-celled algae that can cause bioluminescent waves in the ocean, to visually demonstrate how musical vibrations can impact bioluminescence.

This project has a strong cutting-edge biology bent: genomics, molecular biology, synthetic biology, maybe even some sequencing and metabolic engineering. But don’t let that scare you away – you can jump in at any point and we’re happy to help you get your feet wet! Everyone has something to contribute, learn, or teach. The possibilities are endless – it all depends where YOU want to take it!

Our community projects are free, open to anyone, and driven entirely by whoever wants to show up and participate. This is a great opportunity to come check out BioCurious, and jump into some of the projects going on.

We’ll try to give a brief intro to the project at the start of the meeting for any new visitors. This is a hacking meeting, so bring your favorite tools: laptop, camera, etc. We guarantee you’ll walk away from the evening mesmerized by the science behind glowing critters!