“I get asked all the time by people if it's really possible to design microbial ecosystems,” Green says in the talk, “and I believe the answer is 'yes.'” In fact, she says we are doing it right now—we're just not aware of it. Using a visualization tool she is developing in partnership with AutoDesk, Green presents a compelling account of the way we are consciously, and unconsciously, affecting these invisible, microbial worlds. She showed the audience how microbes travel and are dispersed in buildings—often by people and by the air. If we can understand how these microbes travel, she believes we can design buildings that reduce the spread of dangerous germs that cause illness and infection. Further, we can also do the reverse, by designing in such a way that accommodates the microbes we want (the good ones with health benefits) into our products and buildings. This type of conscious approach to design (which she calls 'Bioinformed Design') is possible—and it has the potential to change the world.
Green is known for using non-traditional tools like visualization to open our eyes to the complex microbial world that exists around us. A TED Senior Fellow, a Professor at both the University of Oregon and the Santa Fe Institute, and director of the Biology and the Built Environment (BioBE) Center, Green conducts exciting research in sustainability and human health. Her work has been recognized internationally and she was awarded the 2012 Portland Monthly Brainstorm award as one of eight “innovators changing our world.” While we make decisions every day based on the visible world around us, Green wants us to think about what we can't see, as well. Our microbes are a big part of who we are—and it's time we started consciously incorporating them into our lives.