Nature Lab Microscopy and the Next Epoch Seed Library

During the winter of 2016, the Nature Lab collaborated with the Next Epoch Seed Library (NESL) to create a series of microscope images of locally collected wild seeds. NESL is an artist-run seed saving project focused on novel, spontaneous, and adaptable plants. Founded in January 2015 by artists Ellie Irons and Anne Percoco the project involves multiple collaborators and focuses on collecting, storing and sharing seeds from plants that tend to live in close association with dense human populations or in areas heavily impacted by human activity. Through presentations, workshops, seed-swaps and exhibitions, they encourage viewers and participants to engage with their local habitat and reflect on their own role in the adaptation and success of these plants.

"These images form an important part of NESL’s current installation at the Court Gallery at William Paterson University. Access to the Nature Lab’s scanning electron microscope allowed us to image our seed collection in new ways, revealing the unique and surprising structure of seeds ranging from common milkweed to asiatic dayflower. Taking these seemingly humble, tiny objects, imaging them in great detail, and printing them at large-scale provides a fresh avenue for visitors to connect with our project. The striking SEM images create visual impact that mirrors the power of every individual seed: each is packed with all the information needed to generate and grow in a variety of challenging situations and circumstances." said Ellie Irons.

Recasting these “weedy” species as companion plants for Anthropocene age, NESL asks that we reconsider limiting binaries like native/non-native and nature/culture. More information is available on the project website:

The Next Epoch Seed Library installed at William Patterson University
Scanning electron image of an Asiatic Dayflower seed
Discover More
Nature Lab Logo
Support us Subscribe to our Newsletter

The RISD Nature Lab is an EPSCoR|C-AIM Core Research Facility supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement #OIA-1655221 and EAGER Grant Award #1723559. ​​​Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed on this site are those of the Nature Lab and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.​

© 2024 Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab at Rhode Island School of Design