It's less paint-by-numbers - and more paint-by-bugs.

Well-known microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles has teamed up with artists and schoolchildren for this weekend's SciGlow exhibition at Auckland's Silo Park, showcasing artworks made from bioluminescent bacteria.

Wiles, who heads Auckland University's Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab, isolated the bacteria used in the artworks from fish bought from the supermarket.

"Bioluminescent bacteria are really common in the ocean and are often found in the guts of fish," she explained.

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Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles.
Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles.

"Fish like anglerfish use their light to find food, while other creatures, like the Hawaiian bobtail squid, use them for camouflage."

This exhibition brings together Whanua Wai students from Freemans Bay School and artists and illustrators Laura Ward, Delaney Parker, Rachel Peary, Michelle Park, Meghan Geliza, Nicola Samson and Cat Chapman.

"The students and artists are challenged to draw a design onto petri dishes using a solution of harmless naturally glowing bacteria - it's like painting on jelly with invisible ink," Wiles said.

"They wont be able to see what they've drawn until the bacteria grow overnight. Wherever they grow, the bacteria will also glow."

Wiles saw the exhibition, in which visitors can also have a try at painting with bugs, as a great opportunity to show people that bacteria aren't all bad - and can often be beautiful.

"And I can explain to people that we know the artwork is alive because it's glowing in dark," she said.

"When you leave them for a few days, and they start to smell ... then you really realise they're bacteria."

Aside from her leading work around superbugs and infectious diseases, Wiles has built a colourful reputation as a bacterial artist.

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A glow-in-the-dark bacteria drawing by Siouxsie Wiles. Photo / Supplied
A glow-in-the-dark bacteria drawing by Siouxsie Wiles. Photo / Supplied

Earlier this year, she worked with an artist to create a portrait of US President-elect Donald Trump from bugs.

"Bacteria are kind of nasty, germy things and the artist wanted to do something nasty and germy, so the response was to do Trump," she said with a laugh.

"The most satisfying thing was at the end of the exhibition, getting to spray disinfectant on it, killing it and watching his face fade."

The exhibition, sponsored by the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery, Te Punaha Matatini and the University of Auckland, runs at Silo Park in Auckland's Wynyard Quarter from 11am-6pm Saturday and Sunday.

The event is free but organisers will be collecting gold coins for a Cure Kids fungi project Wiles is leading.