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101 Plum Islands
Plum Island


If the U.S. Department of Homeland Security leaves its labs on Plum Island — “America's first line of defense against foreign animal diseases” — for swankier digs on the mainland where researchers would be able to handle the most dangerous animal pathogens, what would you do with the abandoned island?

An editor for Nature offered up some suggestions, including using the site for a “future museum on Craig Venter and his synthetic life form” and an “organic plum farm,” of course. But maybe instead of giving it to Craig Venter, the government deeds the buildings and the entire island to Richard Pell for his PostNatural History Museum.

Geoff, Mette and Mark's intensive design studio on Cockatoo Island ended a couple of weeks ago, with the next one in 2011 (or so we hear), so perhaps in the interim they'll island hop to Plum Island next summer (or post-abandonment). How would students respond to this particular island, once described as a “ticking biological time bomb” located so close to so many major population centers? What projects would they confect after rambling about the place where outbreaks of three infectious diseases (for instance, the West Nile virus in 1999) were alleged to have started; where wild animals are killed on sight but a habitat for several bird species is nevertheless supported; and where the serial killer Hannibal Lecter would have enjoyed a brief respite from his incarceration but one which he sneeringly rejected?

Detached physically and conceptually from the everyday and the larger landscapes in so many ways — away from the “mainland” way of doing things and into the avant-garde realms of Dr. Moreau and Dr. No and even into the off-grid DIYs of Giligan's castaway mates and still yet into the seemingly supradimensional fantascapes of Ricardo Montalban and Tattoo: what wildly experimental terrains will they terraform?


Ebola Island
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