Urban Phycology

Urban Phycology Documenting the single cellular life of New York City (and occasionally beyond). One pond at a time. Made with an iPhone and a microscope.



I started pondlife to document microscopic organisms that live in our common spaces. All of life is cellular or made of cells, and while we are used to observing multicellular life forms such as plants and animals, the majority of life is unicellular – meaning that each organism consists of only one cell. These unicellular organisms are intrinsically interesting and often visually stunning; they are architects, builders, travelers, parasites, hunters, scavengers and prey; they have sex lives and mating rituals; they build communities and they go it alone. I think microbes have been vastly underrepresented in our efforts to document natural history to non-scientific audiences. I wanted to document these organisms in a way that would make them accessible to many people, and show them as the complex living creatures that they are.

For me, observing unicellular organisms raises many thoughts on the evolution and nature of life, consciousness, survival, instincts, and complex behaviors. The fact that we, as extremely complex organisms, share many basic behaviors with something as simple as a unicellular microbe is a fantastically interesting thought. Lastly, I wanted to communicate a sense of adventure and exploration into spaces that are already familiar, such as cities and other built environments. I wanted to show that these microscopic creatures go about their lives all around us and right beside us, we just don’t get to see it. I find observing these organisms to be nothing short of wonderful. I wanted to share that sense of wonder and excitement with other people and attempt to communicate why these cells are so interesting to me.

Pondlife is run by Sally Warring. Sally is a graduate student in Biology studying the genetics and molecular biology of parasitic Protists. In (some) of her spare time she collects samples of water from various locations in and around New York City and documents the non-parasitic Protists found within. Sally has a B.Sc. with Honours in Botany from the University of Melbourne in Australia (although she’s from New Zealand). She’s currently working on getting her Ph.D. in Biology from New York University in the United States of America.

At present, all Sally’s footage is captured using her iPhone strategically positioned above the eyepiece of a compound microscope. Obviously this is not ideal, but she will make do with what is available until such time as a more permanent solution arises.



Photo by Alessio Guarino

Herligheten is an ecological initiative and project about urban food production initiated in April 2012 and developed during April and May 2012. Herligheten is located at Loallmenningen in Bjørvika, a rocky “island” in the middle of a rough building site surrounded by roads, railway lines and the airing towers for the submerged tunnel underneath.

Pilar Wiley

Photo by Jessica MacCormick

Pilar Wiley is a Los Angeles based ceramist who has recently embarked on creating her first garden. It contains a sprawling collection of cacti and succulents and the beginnings of a vegetable patch. I photographed her at her lovely home in south central LA in 2014, after her work caught the eye of English gardener John Tebbs of The Garden Edit.  Her functional ceramics, seen scattered throughout her garden, can be bought through 





Photo by Cristian Guizzo

Resiste, resiste, resiste. Il panevìn resiste. La sera del 5 gennaio, nelle campagne, nelle piazze, nei vicoli, nei meandri, a lato delle strade, si accende uno specialissimo tipo di fuoco. Non è un fuoco come quello che si accende tra amici, sempre più raramente, per ritrovarsi una sera d’estate a chiacchierare, né quello acceso per cucinare, né… ( Leggi il testo di Nadia Breda )