We've reached our goal - thank you so much!
We are so appreciative of all the support we've gotten from our community.If you would still like to donate to the cause, sign up for membership, or just learn more about what we do, visit our web page:
What's this about Open Source Biohacker Insulin?
A project so new it hadn't even made it on our Kickstarter page yet - check Anthony Di Franco's guest post on Jonathan Eisen's blog. Meanwhile, do support our -80°C freezer stretch goal, because we'll need that one for the insulin project as well...
Stretch Goal: Buy an Ultra-low freezer for $5000
One of the pieces of equipment we're still missing is a -80°C freezer - an essential tool to build a culture collection of interesting bacteria like C-MOULD, or store genetic parts like Taq polymerase or our Real Vegan Cheese genes. A resource for the entire DIYbio community!
Become a Founding Member today!
Multi-month memberships are discounted up to 25% and more. Sign up now, lock in that rate, and become part of our community. We have toys - come out to play with us!
We are Counter Culture Labs, a community of scientists, tinkerers, biotech professionals, hackers, and citizen scientists who have banded together to create an open community lab — a hackerspace for DIY biology and citizen science. Help us build a space for creative exploration and discovery: a place to innovate, learn, work on fun projects, and tinker with biology and other sciences. Help us build YOUR lab!
Biology is the technology of the 21st century, and has the potential to affect our lives as much as or more than computers did in the 20th century. Our goal is to demystify and democratize this technology, putting tools into the hands of those who want to learn. We believe in the power of diversity and peer-to-peer education; everybody has something to teach and everybody has something to learn. Whether you’re ready to start testing that cutting-edge, pre-startup research idea, or just want to play with some bioluminescent algae, this is the place for you!
We need your help
We need your help to bring citizen science to anyone! Our lab space is in a building called Omni Commons, home of nine other collectives stewarding a space to pool shared resources and collaborate toward social change. We’ve already held tons of free classes and workshops, ranging from the science of our senses, to a workshop on local soil sampling, to an introduction to molecular cloning. Counter Culture Labs is currently home of: the Real Vegan Cheese project (in collaboration with Biocurious), creating vegan cheese engineered from baker’s yeast; Fermentation Station, perfecting homebrewed kombucha, beer, and tasty vinegars; and Bay Area Applied Mycology, whose core current research focus is fungi for soil remediation.
We now want to renovate the lab so that more advanced science can happen in a safe and responsible way. To do this we need sinks, a transparent enclosure to keep the lab dust-free, and an electrical upgrade to power the equipment we’ve been amassing since we moved in last summer. Most of our rent is paid through membership dues, but accruing members has been difficult as our lab is incomplete. It’s vitally important that we keep our classes free and open to the public, but we operate on a shoestring budget - an all-volunteer labor of love and dedication to Open Science. We'd also like to be able to sponsor budding scientists who may not otherwise be able to afford membership.
What we've done so far
We've held over 300 open meetups and free classes around Oakland over the past two years. We've played with black stinky mud to make Winogradsky columns, taught hands-on basic genetic engineering techniques in the makeshift biolab in a spare room (before we moved into our new home at the Omni last July), made a Ghost Heart, and hosted talks on the human gut microbiome, the Ebola crisis, orphan drug development via crowdfunding, and much more. We’ve also spent countless hours agonizing over how to build a lab "for the people, by the people" while searching for a space to call our own. Meet some of our members here.
Ongoing and upcoming projects
- Real Vegan Cheese aims to create real cheese from baker’s yeast (no animals involved!), allowing us all to eat lower on the food chain. Help reduce animal suffering and environmental impacts from the dairy industry, and health issues from cheese consumption. This project won a Gold medal and the award for Best Community Labs Project at the iGEM international synthetic biology competition last October! We’re planning a new project for iGEM 2015 right now - come join us!
- The Bay Area Applied Mycologists are currently overhauling one of our storage rooms to grow mushroom spawn for food, recreation (bioluminescent mushrooms - woot!), and even pollution cleanup.
- The Fermentation Station is a group of folks brewing up batches of beer, wine, kombucha, vinegars and more, in the food-safe part of the lab. We’re looking forward to doing some fun sequencing and culturing projects, combining traditional brewcraft with cutting-edge microbiology and molecular biology.
- We also have a number of people actively doing DNA barcoding projects, identifying mushroom and local spider species based on their DNA sequence. We’d love to work with groups like Nerds for Nature to add this as a standard part of their grassroots BioBlitzes, where local volunteers descend on a park or other natural area for an intensive survey of its biological diversity.
- We ♡ Bio Art! Whether you’re fascinated by glow-in-the-dark bioluminescent organisms, want to paint with colorful bacteria, explore the invisible world under a microscope, or learn how to create biocouture using nature’s own high fashion designers, this is the place for you!
- We want to do much more with environmental monitoring, such as installing sensor packages on our roof to monitor weather, air pollution and radiation, while offering classes for the local community on how to test your water for bacterial pollution, or test your soil for heavy metals and other contaminants.
- We are partnering with the local school district to develop a teacher training curriculum in STEM education.
- We hella love Oakland! We want to be a resource for the local community to ask questions on scientific topics or concerns. Our vision is to create an open and accessible space inviting to the curious passerby. We’d like to be a resource for our neighbors and become an awesome part of the Oakland community.
We currently offer our members most of the essentials for a full-fledged molecular biology lab, including several fridges and freezers, incubators, centrifuges, shakers, microscopes, PCR machines, spectrophotometers, gel rigs, etc. We also have two biosafety cabinets, a large desktop autoclave, a Speed Vac centrifugal evaporator, a beefy Millipore water purification system, and several bioreactors. Three large donated lab benches were mounted on casters, making much of the lab layout reconfigurable. We also have a room set aside for our future BioSafety Level 2 lab, enabling us to work on human samples and cell lines, or to isolate novel bacteria with useful properties.
Check out this amazing 3D scan the lovely people at Immersio made for us.
We’ve only moved into our current home at the Omni a few months back, and while we can already start doing some interesting experiments, there are still a few big infrastructure pieces needed to transform this former Bocce ball court into the mad science paradise we’d like it to be:
A more detailed budget can be found on our wiki.
Sponsor a budding scientist!
We are located in Oakland, home to lots of underprivileged youth, homelessness and unemployment. But we believe that anyone with some gumption and interest deserves a chance to come play and learn with these technologies.. So help us sponsor someone who would otherwise not be able to afford a membership! All our membership rewards are transferable, so you can gift one to someone you know. Or you can also do a “Get One, Give One” by simply doubling the amount you donate for one of the membership awards. Any donations above the listed price will go towards our fellowship program.
The Omni Commons
The Omni Oakland Commons is a truly amazing community space in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland. A rambling 23,000 sqft 1930’s building, it now houses a vibrant assortment of collectives, including our direct neighbors hackerspace Sudo Room, free university Bay Area Public School, a print studio, a wellness collective, a screen printing shop, a bookstore/cafe, and much more. So much better than just finding a space all by our lonesome!
Risks and challenges
- Creating a clean and safe space in order to do good science.
- Attracting enough members to be financially sustainable in the long term. We run on a shoestring budget, and we’ve already built a strong community around us through outreach and community events. We also plan to diversify our income further by applying for educational grants.
- Confronting fears associated with any new technology, through classes and events that are free and open to the public. Reach out to the local community, carefully listen to any concerns and questions and respond honestly.
- Can we really put your name on a newly sequenced bacteria? Heck yeah! Some of the people involved in CCL have published genome papers before, and we have some connections to get the sequencing done cheaply. At $3000 for this reward, we won't be making much money off this one, but this is something we're excited to tackle as a project anyway.
We do have some challenges ahead of us, but we have a great team with diverse backgrounds and are excited to develop Oakland's citizen science community.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)