Exploring Practitioners | Ruocha Wang

Practitioner 1 – Monkeycup Plant Care

The Monkeycup conservation garden is located on Penang Hill in Malaysia.

Tools

Long tweezer (for picking up “wrong food” in the cup); Shovel and rake (for soil loosening); Clipper (for removing damaged or dead parts); Watering bottles (for feeding weak cups); Dust ball (for sucking out small alien debris from the cup); Sprinkler (for large area watering).

Workstation Documentation

The workstation is located in the garden where the environment is half wild half human-controlled. To preserve the nature of the garden, the practitioner tries to leave as little trace as possible. She carries all the tools with her, which is not too many.

Process Documentation

The plant care work is carried out throughout the day. If the practitioner spots a dying cup, she first observes the condition of the cup: is it damaged by human? is it not catching enough food? is the mother tree doing well? Then she makes a decision: to feed it with the nutritious solution, or to remove it. If she sees debris in the cup that isn’t supposed to be in there and might harm the cup, she removes it using a long tweezer or a dust ball. This requires high skill as the cup cannot be touched. Once a day she sprinkles the garden gently, which also takes a long time.

Pain Points

As a conservation garden, they need support from tourists. But not all tourists are respectful nature lovers. Sometimes the practitioner finds damaged cups that are popped by hands or cup caps that are torn. The garden finds it difficult to balance between bringing people closer to nature and protecting fragile rare species. Showing tourists the conservation procedure that is done with great care can be a way to educate them.

Practitioner 2 – Plantable Packaging

This packaging is made by designers Bakker and van Dijk.

Tools

Blender (to further break up the fiber from the cutting waste); Basin (to soak the cutting waste); Filter screen and molds (to shape and drain the soaked cutting waste); Stamp (to print on the packaging).

Workstation Documentation

The workstation can be anywhere, preferably near the source of cutting waste and had abundant sunshine. As there is no artificial additive and no pollutive matters, the water drained can be reused or discharged into nature.

Process Documentation

The practitioner first collects the cutting waste, then blend them and soak them in water. They pour the mixture into a mold with a draining filter at the bottom. When the water is drained, the mixture is shaped. Then the practitioner lets the sunshine do its magic. When the pieces are thin and hard, they can be printed with labelling information. As food packages are not meant to last long, this plantable, easily degradable packaging is a solution to plastic waste.

Pain Points

The process of making the packaging material required intensive labour. It is a great concept in terms of material and energy, but the manufacturing cost is hindering its practice in industries. However, as more people are aware of the environmental issues and are willing to pay more for more responsible products, this is also an opportunity.

Practitioner 3 – DNA Sequencing in the Wild

Dr. Philip Johns from Yale-NUS introduced his portable DNA sequencing toolkit to us, thanks to his and Andy’s kind help.

Tools

Direct DNA sequencer (low cost, immediate sequencing, but the preparation work is tedious); Thermal Cycler (to amplify copies of a specific segment); Pipette (to transport a measured volume of liquid); Electrophoresis (to separate charged DNA according to size); LED Transilluminator (to help read the electrophoresis result); Laptop (to analyze data); Power  supply.

Workstation Documentation

Take otter feces DNA sequencing as an example. The practitioner brings the toolkit with him into the wild. They acquire samples from the sea and analyze them using the workstation. The analyzing work is not done in the wild, but in a small lab where there are power supply and workplace.

Process Documentation

After the sample is acquired and processed, the practitioner conducts PCR to amplify copies of the specific segment they look into. Then using electrophoresis and a LED transilluminator, the DNA fragments are separated and read. The data is then analyzed by computer to generate the real DNA sequence.

Pain Points

For faster direct DNA sequencing, MinION can be used, but the cost is higher than traditional ways of sequencing. A lot of time and different machines are needed. The plastic waste generated from the experiment is hard to neglect, especially if the experiment is carried out fully in the wild in the future.

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