“Make no mistake,” the speaker said resolutely, “with this technology and your continued investment, we could terraform an entire planet!” The audience erupted in applause and the attractive female scientist smiled widely behind her podium. After years of research on volcano fields and at the bottom of the ocean, she was finally getting her big break. Jillian looked over to three older gentlemen in light grey three button suits seated to her right. They clapped and smiled. One gave her an approving nod and she turned back to the crowd of eager donors.

“Now that I’ve explained my research behind the concept, I want to show you the progress we have already made in this exciting new field and the direction we are going.” Jillian stepped to the side and gripped a thin silver remote in her palm. Clearing her throat, she looked to the back of the room and asked the audiovisual crew to dim the lights. Instantly, the auditorium was dark and the image of a plant appeared on the screen. The plant was tall, with a sturdy green stock and large green leaves that stretched upward and then bowed to the ground under its own weight. Judging from the slide, the plant was approximately five feet tall, but more peculiar that that, the picture captured a faint green glow emitting from the leaves themselves.

“This is a kelp and corn hybrid infused with the genetic makeup of bacteria that lives on the ocean floor. Rather than require water, it feeds almost entirely on sulfur and still generates oxygen, not from photosynthesis, but from a direct reaction to carbon dioxide. You may notice the green glow on the slide. This isn’t bad camera work,” Jillian said with a smile, to chuckles in the audience. “The green glow is actually a reaction from bacteria that is living on the leaf in a symbiotic manner. These bacteria are actually generating luminescence as a result of a chemical reaction. But more importantly, the light they emit actually contains enough energy to provide a photosynthetic process for the remaining plants and that is what we will address here. In other words”, Jillian paused dramatically, “we’ve created a much weaker version of the sun!”

Flipping the slide, Jillian revealed a photo of red and green algae. “This algae feeds on iron as a result of genetic modification. Again, the byproduct is oxygen. You’ll notice that while this algae doesn’t emit a green light, it is happy to absorb the light which enables its own photosynthesis to take place. In this sense, the algae and the plants have a symbiotic relationship and contribute holistically to their environment. I hope you can see how we’ve really built a self-sustaining ecosystem for the harshest of places!”

After flipping through several other slides and explaining her various genetic hybrids, Jillian reached the final one, a small earthworm. Placing her clicker down on the table, Jillian motioned for the lights to be turned back on. “I am going to reiterate an important point so that all of you can understand what we’ve created in these previous slides before we discuss our final breakthrough. All of these plants are designed to work symbiotically with each other so that they can literally create an environment that they can thrive in. The best part about this environment isn’t just that it’s capable of sustaining unique plant life; it is also capable of sustaining animal life. With that being said, the last of these is this genetically modified earth worm. In our preliminary tests, it has demonstrated itself to be a very resilient creature, capable of methodically transforming, fertilizing, and aerating the ground under the plants. As I said, it is a complete ecosystem.” Jillian paused, adjusted her glasses, and read her final pitch. “With your continued support, we will complete this research and make even the least habitable places on earth livable again!”

The crowd gave a generous applause and Jillian stepped away from the podium and towards the three men seated behind her. They stood, shook her hand, and then ushered her off the stage before any questions could be asked. “Did I do a good enough job selling it?” she asked, once away from the lights, cameras, and reporters.

“I see the heavens in your future,” the gentleman replied.

Written by Thane Keller

Thane is a native of Northern Virginia that has been traveling the world with his wife and four children. Thane researches and writes about technology, innovation, leadership, decision-making, and organizational change.

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The Woman of Mars | THANE KELLER

[…] but I thought it appropriate to blog about them all the same, given my love of Mars and my novel Trials. The pictures that are published from the Mars rover (you can view them here) are simply phenomenal […]

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