Prospective Futures: The Aurelia Project is a collaboration between internationally-recognized bioartist, WhiteFeather Hunter, who was Visiting Scholar/ Artist-in-Residence at Saint Mary’s University, and her host, SMU Senior Research Fellow in Environmental Science, Dr. Linda Campbell. The project also includes significant collaboration and contributions by Environmental Studies BES Honours student, Brittany Hill, in co-developing and co-leading a goldenrod ecotoxicology and in-situ remediation. Brittany apprenticed on natural dye preparation, bacteriological protocols and the field of BioArt with WhiteFeather Hunter as a part of her honours thesis project. The project is part of the BIOTA series, facilitated by IOTA Institute, Halifax and is the first Faculty of Science bio-art residency at Saint Mary’s University. IOTA works with contemporary artists who bridge the topic of life sciences through the arts, with the aim of developing curatorial methods and methodologies involved while developing creation and presentation opportunities for artists who engage in STEM fields.
Prospective Futures: The Aurelia Project centers around healing and recovery of highly contaminated legacy gold mine tailing sites in Nova Scotia, using both native plant species, Solidago canadensis (Canadian goldenrod)/ Solidago gigantea (Giant goldenrod), and a mesophilic (and extremophilic) bacterial species, Cupriavidus metallidurans, towards conducting soil bioremediation research, experimentation and dissemination. Cupriavidus metallidurans produces micro-particles of pure gold as a metabolic byproduct in environments that contain toxic metals, and goldenrod is effective in phytoremediation (uptake of toxins such as arsenic, helping to remove them from the soil). The project has also consulted on Mi’kmaq lived experiences with ecology and the cultural landscape, as well as aspired to utilize embodied visual communication strategies that include the localized dialect of Maritime Sign Language.
Saint Mary’s University and the various legacy gold mine tailings sites are in K’jipuktuk, Mi’kma’ki, the Ancestral Territory of the Mi’kmaq First Nation.
During the residency, WhiteFeather delivered a Master Class on Bacterial BioPigments at NSCAD University through the School of Extended Studies. Following the residency, WhiteFeather offered a workshop on soil bioremediation at the Milieux Institute using the frozen Cupriavidus metallidurans cell bank developed for Milieux and SMU, for future researchers at both facilities.
Linda Campbell received funding support for the project from the CASE Community Engaged Research Assistance Program through Saint Mary’s University. WhiteFeather received funding support for the project from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, as well as from IOTA Institute/ STEMfest 2018. Brittany Hill was supported through a SMUWorks Work-Study Grant. IOTA Institute received funding support for the project through a Canada Council for the Arts Outreach Composite Grant. Additional materials and facility support was provided by Saint Mary’s University Halifax and by the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology at Concordia University.
WhiteFeather would also like to thank and acknowledge the skills and wonderful assistance of Carmen Cranley, laboratory technician in the microbiology lab at SMU.