Team:UM Macau/Human Practices

Integrated Human Practice

Integrated Human Practice

As a kind of mammalian species that has been living on land for over millions of years, our human race always holds strong curiosity towards the mysterious sea, the area which covers 70% of the surface of the Earth, with numerous tremendous creatures living in. After decades of exploration, we have touched the gate of the knowledge provided by sea and are gradually revealing the mysterious mask of the great unknown. Aquarium built under mutually beneficial principles, fulfils the purposes of both rescuing and conserving marine creatures, and conveying the marine knowledge to the public. It plays an essential role in promoting harmonious coexistence of human and marine creatures. However, operating of an aquarium is not an easy task.

Our team visited an aquarium in our neighbourhood, the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom. We noticed that a staff dressing in a diving suit was using a little brush cleaning the stone and coral surface in a transparent display tank. After a short inquisition, we learnt that the diver staff was removing biofilm, a collective of one or more types of microorganisms that can rapidly grow on many surfaces in the corner and crevices of the display tanks. The existence of biofilm can be harmful for the creatures living in the tanks, for they consume too much oxygen that otherwise would defuse in the tank. In addition, we found that there are studies that the pathogenic bacteria like Aeromonas Hydrophila, which causes both human and fish diseases and survives in both brackish and freshwater environment, forms biofilm and resistant to most of the antibiotics. More depressingly, the current method the staff adapted to clean the biofilm is physical bushing! This uncourteous and brutal method is not only time and energy consuming, but also life threatening to those fragile and sensitive species in the aquarium. The drastic behaviours may also provoke the aggressive attacks from some dangerous creatures like sharks, which can be real life threats to the staffs. The health of staffs could also be affected by high water pressure causing decompression sickness.

After our first interaction with the aquarium staff, we noticed that, though there are many newly emerged technologies on cleaning biofilms, the staff’s attitude towards these are quite negative. We then coordinate an interview with the staff. They mainly concerned about the safety and clean of the new technologies. They refused to use the chemical method as it may pollute the water environment and cause some irreversible effects on the health of the aquatic lives. For example, hydrogen peroxide gets on fish, shrimp and other creatures can harm or even kill them.

Under this urgent need of an improved biofilm removing method, our team decided to launch the iGEM2020 UM_MACAU project BREAC focusing on removing the biofilm in the neighbour aquarium with synthetic biology.

To learn more details of what kind of biofilm removals will be the most suitable, we coordinated and conducted a formal interview with the staff of the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom and the Hong Kong Ocean Park. We learnt from one of the staff Mr. East, that he finds some new technologies are quite complicated to learn and operate. This enlightened us that our product should be simple handled and easy to learn. Mr. East also concerns about the biosafety to the product. To ensure that our product will not cause any negative effects on the aquatic environment and the creatures living in, we added the gene that is able to express magnetism which made it easier to be recycled by magnetic force. To further explore the biosafety of our project and related knowledge, we contacted Dr Zhang, an expert from the Hong Kong Ocean Park, and conducted an interview. Dr Zhang claimed that our project may also remove the biofilm that needed for biodegradation which is collected in the biofilter. As the biofilter is in at the dark-shaded area, we came up with an idea of designing a light-inducible system to improve our engineered bacteria. To know the public understanding of biofilm, we designed an online survey. The results are that most people do not know what biofilm is and have even never seen it before. Therefore, to enhance people’s awareness and understanding of biofilm which can also be found in daily life, we published articles and conducted online activities on social media. The articles contain contents about the introduction of synthetic biology, biofilm, and related topics. We held an online activity of collection of biofilm photo. From the collection, we can test people’s understanding of biofilm and promote “biofilm”. We also collaborated with the other iGEMers (ABC) to publish a handbook of Anti-Biofilm Community and introduce the related knowledge. This handbook has both Chinese and English versions, so it can influence more people. The e-form of the handbook is share through the Internet by posting it on our social media platform and being put on the website of our faculty to reach more readers. To help aquariums survive through the COVID-19 pandemic, we did encourage people to visit the aquarium by sharing our excellent visiting experience on our media platform. Through these interviews and conversations, we successfully established dialogues between the aquarium and our team, our team to the public, the public to the aquarium. All the suggestions given to us can help us to improve our design, so that we can further solve the stakeholders’ problem.


Moori Bakhtiari N, Tulabi Z, Alishahi M. Biofilm-Producing Ability and Antibiotic Resistance Pattern of Pathogenic Strains of Aeromonas hydrophila, Jundishapur J Microbiol. 2019 ; 12(12):e97640. doi: 10.5812/jjm.97640.



iGEM 2020 UM_Macau