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Bio Club - Reasonable Bioluminecent Vibrio fischeri Halloween Idea?

microbiology halloween bacteria bioluminescent education

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#1 atcggcta



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Posted 30 September 2018 - 08:42 AM



So, this is my first time posting here. I hope this is a valid question for this forum.


I'm the president of an undergraduate Bio club at a university. We are trying to come up with ideas for a Halloween event and I got to thinking about bioluminescent bacteria. I have heard about an artist who used Vibrio fischeri to make bioluminescent paintings on an agar medium. My question is, could this be done on a pumpkin: Jack-o-lantern style? My idea is to (after hollowing and carving) create wells within the jack-o-lantern along the base of the eyes, nose, and mouth. Within the wells we will place an agar for growing Vibrio fischeri. we can also place an agar plate (or two) inside the pumpkin. We will then inoculate Vibrio fischeri onto the agar and, fingers crossed, watch it glow the next day in a normal room with the lights out. However, I have very little experience with bioluminescent bacteria! Do you microbiology experts think there would be a strong enough glow within the pumpkin to even be visible? Or do the bacteria need to be subjected to a black light or something to be viewable?


Sorry for any ignorance I may be showing here... I have never worked with, or even seen bioluminescent bacteria. My focus is in bioinformatics, default_smile.png and even there I am a beginner.


Thanks in advance for the answers!


Edited by atcggcta, 30 September 2018 - 08:45 AM.

#2 bob1


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Posted 01 October 2018 - 07:30 AM

I've never worked with it, but I think it should be visible to the naked eye under the right conditions. The glow from these bacteria is luminescence, which is produced naturally by the bacteria. There is no need for a black light - this would be needed for fluorescence (e.g. GFP). I would recommend Photobacterium phosphoreum instead, as it is supposedly brighter.


Both are non-pathogenic, so can be used without too much worry about containment.


As for using the pumpkin as a petri-dish, this should be possible, but you should line the "wells" with some plastic wrap (or similar) to prevent things from the pumpkin diffusing into the medium, which could prevent the bacteria from growing. Another option is that you could grow the bacteria in dishes or tubes and then insert these into the carved pumpkin. You will most likely need to incubate at a certain temperature to get the bacteria to grow, so just make sure you have somewhere to do this.


Another issue might be that you will need to obtain the bacteria yourselves (talk to the local labs...) - there are a number of suppliers that can send you bacterial strains, but they are usually always reluctant to send to an address that is not a registered laboratory. It is possible that, with a bit of work, you could isolate the bacteria yourselves as a project.

Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: microbiology, halloween, bacteria, bioluminescent, education

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