2017 SEM images – part 1

seed twig

After recently posting a reminder of the beautiful SEM images taken by Clodagh Dooley of AML in TCD I am delighted today to post some new wonderful SEM images taken of samples from the sibling Oregon Maple that was recently felled in Trinity College Dublin.

Colin Reid of the CMA (Centre for Microscopy and Analysis), Trinity College Dublin, kindly came to our rescue when Clodagh left TCD. During early August David Taylor and I met with Colin Reid, who had kindly portioned some of his time to work with us to choose sample cuttings, image viewpoints and take some SEM images. The resultant images taken by Colin are beautiful and inspiring.  The following slide show is taken from a seed pod.  

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The following slide show is taken from a cross section of a seed twig. 

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The following slide show is taken from a cross section of a damaged twig. 

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Oregon Maple 2017 SEM images revisited

oregan maple c_s twig003 hi res

Revisiting the wonderful images Clodagh Dooley took on the Scanning Electron Microscope in the Advanced Microscopy Lab, Trinity College Dublin during the summer of 2017.

Since the collapse of the Oregon Maple on the 1st of July 2018 I have been revisiting the work completed by the Trinity College Trees Team on this tree during 2017.

Clodagh Dooley took some great images, which later inspired the artwork created by Hassett and suspended in the Oregon Maple during October 2017.  See image above.

To follow a brief recap of some of these images taken of pollen grains (see slideshow bellow and two images of bark lichen which follow the slide show). 

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14 oregan maple lichen007 hi resoregan maple lichen004 hi res

Trees of South Africa – canopy tour

During a recent visit to South Africa part of my trip took in the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour – zip lining through the canopy of trees along ten high suspension wires, one up to sixty meters long…

tsitsikamma 3

Many of the platforms are built around giant Outeniqua Yellowwood trees that are up to 700 years old! Standing within the crown of these giants and looking down at the lush forest floor thirty meters below was an experience of a lifetime.


We learnt a lot about the flora and fauna that live in the forest during the tour. Having made artworks inspired by one of the oldest trees in Trinity College Dublin (The Oregon Maple, now sadly fallen). One important fact that we learnt as we zipped along was that the reason that it was feasible to attach platforms and cables to these trees without damaging them was that their root structure was so shallow allowing the trees to be flexible and resilient to the many visitors who chose to see the trees from this height.

Tsitsikamma canopy tour

Bioplastic test: Day 3

On the third day of testing I decided to embed various types of fabrics into further test using the 2ml glycerol agar recipe.

To date I had been using the green coloured agarose so I decided to see what the material would work by using the clear agarose. It would also give me an opportunity to add some yellow food colouring to the mix. I decided that because the 4ml was interesting but too sticky I would also try to do a selection of samples using a 3ml glycerol agar recipe.

Again I added and stretched different types of fabric to the petri dishes.  See images below of the different tests undertaken.  Image directly below tests using the 2ml glycerol recipe. Image below that using the 3ml glycerol recipe. 



20180524_103342Image above of clear bioplastic with embedded fabric samples.


Above image of clear (left dish) and yellow food dyed (right dish) bioplastic.

Image above 2ml glycerol bioplastic sample brushed onto cotton netting.

Image above 2ml glycerol bioplastic sample  brushed onto cotton netting.  Artist stretching fabric to check capacity to stretch.  2ml glycerol sample quite brittle.  

Samples above 3ml glycerol sample, which was much more robust.  

Bioplastic testing: Day 2


After drying the bioplastic tests overnight it was clear that the starch based one was really interesting and much more transparent than I was able to create on my own at home during last year’s experiments. I still felt though that I would have a problem trying to get in onto my fabrics in a controlled way. (see image above – starch bioplastic is the clear/ white material in the lower petri dish.  The top dish contains the (green coloured) agar bioplastic.)


So we decided that we should focus our attention solely on the algae based bioplastics. The samples that we had created the day before had a lovely translucency; like looking through the see through coloured plastic sweet wrappers (see image above). Unfortunately the agarose mix without the glycerol was very fine and delicate after drying out. It was brittle, prone to tearing easily and very hard to scrape off the bottom of the Petri dish. So our final experiment yesterday was to test what would happen if we added glycerol to the algarose mix. To heighten the effect Conor decided to add 4ml of glycerol to the mix.

After drying in the oven at 65degrees from 12 until 6pm and being left on the bench overnight both algae samples were dry. However as earlier stated the algarose without the glycerol was deemed unsuitable as a material for this project. The sample with added glycerol was much more interesting and when pulled slightly had a little give or stretch in the material. It was however a little sticky to the touch though.


So on day two of our sampling programe Conor decided to work with the algarose recipe and by adding 1, 2 and 4ml of glycerol test to see which if any had more workable properties.

So we made up 3 sample batches. Before I poured the solubulised liquid into the Petri dishes I added small strips of different types of fabric to the bottom of the Petri dish. The fabric samples were a nylon fixed gauze used in screen printing, a nylon lycra.  (see image below – left hand petri dish)


It was decided before continuing any further testing of the bioplastic with the various sculptural fabrics that it was best to see which if the recipes would work best.

Two other tests were undertaken as well on this day.

To simulate the way the fabric would be working in a sculpture lycra mesh netting was stretched over the petri dish and held in place by an elastic band. The warm (4ml glycerol) liquid painted onto the stretched fabric and set pretty quickly. As I was hoping to eventually layer up the material onto the fabric we decided to test this out by painting a second layer on top of the first. (see image above – right hand petri dish)

Finally as we had talked about the lack of flexibility with the normal algarose mix Conor suggested that if we could add bubbles to the liquid mix before it set the bubbles would create a cushion and matrix inside the material that could allow it to flex better. He suggested working with Alka selzer could give us the effect we were looking for.


So Conor crushed some of the tablet and put it on the Petri dish and pouring the slightly cooled down liquid algarose without the glycerol onto the powder. See image for result. He did something similar when he carefully added the remaining crushed tablet to the beaker of plain algarose over the sink. As he expected it bubbled and frothed up. Both samples were put into the oven to dry.


Results from bioplastic testing: day 2:

Tests with basic agar bioplastic recipe with 1ml glycerol – too brittle and inflexible

Tests with agar bioplastic recipe with 2ml glycerol – a little bit of give

Tests with agar biopastic recipe with 4ml glycerol – stretchy but a bit sticky

Trees of South Africa – recent visit

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Storms River, Tsitsikamma National Wildlife Park, South Africa

During a recent visit to South Africa I was taken by the incredible trees that surrounded me during my walk to the Storms River suspension bridge, part of the wonderful Tsitsikamma Wildlife Park.

Having learnt a little “tree knowledge’ from TCD tree specialist David Hackett during the 2017 College Trinity Trees I was delighted to see some similar tree species to those that I had learnt about.

A black Ironwood – a blackish gum exudes from bark wounds. Image below.


A real Yellowwood. Image below

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A Turkeyberry tree – with branches sporting incredibly large spikes standing sentry on the tree. Image below.

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A enormously tall tree that to my limited training seem to be a birch tree.  PHOTO-2018-08-02-13-07-33

And my favorite unidentified tree, who’s roots and branches seemed to defy gravity and have a life of their own. See Image below.

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