Director of The Biology and Built Environment Center and TED Senior Fellow
A Professor at both the University of Oregon and the Santa Fe Institute, Jessica Green wants people to see how the microbial blueprint of our bodies, homes, cities and forests impacts our world, and our future. As founding director of the innovative new Biology and the Built Environment (BioBE) Center, Green envisions a future for urban design that promotes sustainability, human health and well-being. She is currently spearheading efforts to model urban spaces as complex ecosystems that house trillions of diverse microorganisms interacting with each other, with humans, and with their environment. She calls it, the “built environment microbiome.”
Green is internationally recognized for highly cited publications in Nature, Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Her research has been featured in Discover, Scientific American, the Boston Globe, and she was selected for the 2012 Portland Monthly Brainstorm award (one of eight “innovators changing our world”). She was a National Science Foundation bioinformatics postdoctoral fellow, completed a PhD in nuclear engineering at UC Berkeley, and earned a BS in civil and environmental engineering at UCLA.
Cities Unseen: How Microbes Can Make Public Spaces, Buildings, and Human Beings Healthier
How can a deeper understanding of microbes help us create sustainable cities, healthier buildings (including our hospitals and homes), and more robust green spaces? Jessica Green explains how in this visually stunning talk, while ultimately touching on even deeper questions about humanity: What does it mean to be an individual? Where does your identity begin, and where does it end?
Every person has a unique and unseen universe of microorganisms living in, on, and around them. These trillions of tiny creatures define who we are. Yet we are only just beginning to understand how our microbes interact with the people around us, our buildings, and the natural environment. How do microbes make us healthier, more resilient, and more vibrant? How do microbes influence our moods, our public spaces, our relationships with everything we touch? Green, a scientist and TED Fellow, explores the microbial cities living in our gut, on our skin, and in our homes. She describes the mixing of microbes among people who touch (using examples from the sport of roller derby). And she illustrates the unique microbial DNA “cloud” that surrounds and defines people. Green leaves audiences with a new appreciation of the mini-cities in our bodies and our world, and a glimpse into a future where microbial ecosystems are managed to promote human health and well being.
Seeing the Unseen
We make decisions every day based on the visible world around us. Yet much of our lives is shaped by what we can't see. Beginning with her personal story of transitioning from one unseen world to another—from nuclear physics to microbiome work—Jessica Green explains how the DNA sequencing revolution has transformed our understanding of who we are (our personal identity) and the world around us. She shares how microbes influence our bodies, our cities and the planet in ways we never realized before. Green closes her talk with a vision of bioinformed design that leaves her audiences seeing everything from a new perspective—and with a new desire to know even more about the world around us, and about ourselves, on this microscopic, yet magnanimously important level.
In this specialized talk, Jessica Green shares five ways microbiome design can reshape the places we live, work and play. She illustrates, using data and visualizations, how the unseen microbial world is unintentionally designed into our daily lives, and how it affects everything we do. And, as microbes are at the root of everything, if we understand how they function, we can understand how we need to change, and grow, in order to create something better than what we have. In sweeping, accessible talks, Green lays out a future where intentional microbiome design is leveraged to create a healthier, more sustainable world—and what we can do to propel, and participate in, this exciting new future.