Biodiversity in a small drop of pondwater

Yesterday was Biodiversity day. Biodiversity is usually celebrated with pictures or collages of a wide range of animals and plants. To think that it is only about 1% of life on earth is mind-boggling.  We are so sensitive to extinctions of mammals, birds, insects and plants today thanks to a few remarkable individuals who have…

Day 7: Lichen culture– part 2

Continuing from my previous post, the April22-plate 3 was really remarkable. Without much ado, here is a sampling of what I saw. Looking forward to your feedback and also can you identify the mystery objects: 1. Nematode (Nematode-24728-1-LI): A fairly large nematode. You can see the pharynx and a bit of the digestive track. There…

Day 7: Lichen cultures

Continuing from my previous post, I am going to try and keep an eye on the succession of life in my lichen cultures. For this, I have 6 different lichens collected from different trees put into petridishes containing RO water. Below, I categorize all life I could see after 1 week. Here are results from three…

Lichen suspensions as growth media

For some time now, I have been completely bowled over with lichen suspensions (1,2,3). You never know what surprise you’d get. I suppose, it would be so for mosses too.  All I do is to drop a lichen scraping in a small petridish with about 5 ml of bottled water and follow it for days,…

Help me identify these ciliates and flagellates

Without much ado, here are 5 unicellular eukaryotes that were growing in my lichen suspensions. These emerged after almost 4 weeks. I took these videos at the beginning of the year,  and only now found time to collate them. Could you help me identify these? BTW, even after 4 months, I have nematodes and rotifers thriving…

A Lousy day and permanent slides

A few months ago, a young micronaut, Aditi, had a lice infestation on her hair and before subjecting her to the lice treatment we got a couple of the critters and foldscoped them.  Without much ado here are the  collated videos. One of the things I have been wanting to do is to make some permanent…

Foldscoop 1:3. Long-term Lichen suspensions

Laziness is a good thing; sometimes. Previously I had posted on observing tardigrades, ciliates and nematodes (1, 2)  in Lichens. It so happened that due to a hundred obstacles that life so often places, I  forgot to observe the lichens suspended in mineral water for about two weeks. By this point, the water turned dark brown…

Tardigrade and friends

I have been greatly inspired by the Stanford Tardigrade post and want to explore the local lichens for similar associations. Initially, I was just focused on finding Tardigrades, but then everytime I picked up a lichen for foldscoping there were other life forms that were consistently observed in the same environs. I then thought that I  should report…

Ecosystem networks and flux

Any species that we observe under a microscope is part of an ecological network that depends on resources and interactions with other species. Think of all the ecosystems we are so used to seeing and reading about regularly: Serengeti, Yosemite, Kaziranga, Madagascar and Artic, each of these have completely different profiles of macro-species from the…

A lichen roundworm in my foldscope and on my table and wall

Ever since the wonderful article on how to find Tardigrades in your backyard, I have been doing my bit to find them in local lichens and as it usually happens, I am completely drawn away by other life forms I see in the same space: the complex of fungi and chlorophytes in an intimate association, ciliates at…

Exploring a pond water sample with a DC micronaut- part-2

Sometime back I had posted a series of videos on a Vahlkampfid amoeba. This emerged from a long session I had with DC-Micronaut Reethi while we were exploring various foldscope tricks and also deciding on workshop content.  In that session we saw several other gems and I didnt get myself to post them until now….

Notes from various Foldscope workshops in India

Recently, thanks to Manu and the foldscope team, Vaishnavi and I had the opportunity to conduct multiple workshops in India. I thought I’d share some of our experiences on our community page.  The idea of these workshops was to work with small groups of people and expose them to a whole range of foldscope tricks so that…

Close encounters with an amoebic kind

Over the summer I have decided to work with one or a few micronauts at a time every weekend. This time I thought I’d let them join me in my explorations. Most importantly I want to share that observations aren’t always picture perfect and ideas aren’t always good to start with, but as you keep observing,…

Camera Lucida

Inspired by Manu’s post and Jim’s projection microscope.   Aditi and Laks

Playing with White flies (Trialeurodes)

I met with three other DC micronauts  last weekend to explore focus-locking, liquid samples and projection microscopes. Since I had a plant infested with white flies, we decided to investigate the white flies. White flies typically can be found in the lower side of a leaf. Here you can see the heavy infestation. One of the…

Building a micro-aquarium using the ditch-spacer slide technique

One of my long-term aspirations is to possess a micro-aquarium, where microscopic life is constrained in a small slide volume that I could watch for days and see aspects of the cycles of the various life forms. How cool would that be? Yet, it all only seemed like a fancy… until this May, where at the  National…

Peltate trichomes

I was in Delaware in March for a family reunion. Spring having emerged from winter the week before, there was much floral and insect activity.  All the usual suspects started blooming. I went into a thicket down my cousin’s backyard and found this plants with interesting leaves with brown spots all over underneath. At first…

Foldscopes at Robert Frost Middle School STEM night

On the 25th of February, the Robert Frost Middle School in Rockville MD hosted a STEM night. As two of the micronauts are students in the same school, we decided to put up a Foldscope table for the occasion. We had a sample preparation section where a visitor could prepare his/her own sample and a…

Tepal epidermis

You might have seen this earlier post by Cristina on plant histology. I loved the jigsaw pattern on the leaf epidermis and wanted to see epidermal patterns in other plants and their structures. One of the flowers that one sees in early spring in the DC area are the magnolias. This one in the picture…

Compounding a foldscope

Here is a problem that might adorn entrance examination tests someday. It originated in a dream that I had a few days ago. I suspect this dream was inspired by the SLR hack of the foldscope. The low power lens of the foldscope can magnify objects ~140 times. The low power of a typical compound…

Bubbles in Saliva

In the potato staining experiments, Aditi (DC-Micronaut) wondered what would happen if we spit on the potato, would we see the amyloplasts being digested? More on those experiments in a different post.  What caught our attention were the salivary bubbles. You could see bubbles through bubbles and it made for a dainty sight. Coming to think…

What is in Mr. Potato?

The Potato that we eat today originated  in the Andes of South America. We consume a storage organ of the plant called the tuber, which is a modified underground stem. All modern potatoes came from a single potato somewhere in modern Peru. I find this quite amazing. Up until about the late 1500s, the Potato…

DC Micronauts (2016). Foldscoop. 1:1

One of the things that Manu and I spoke about after our workshop experiences was to explore the microcosmos with a small group of foldscopers. A few of us in the DC area organized a local foldscope club of about 12 individuals, aptly called the “DC micronauts” (thanks for the name Manu). We range in age from 6-45…

Culturing ciliates: The Hay Infusion, Day 8

My pond culture has reached its 100th day and I seem to have hit upon a wonderful ecological equilibrium. Yet, there is a certain impatience to see more, which is why I thought I’d make a hay infusion. The hay infusion is a wonderful concept. Making it is rather trivial (see Figure 1): Cut some hay (I…

Day 80: Lachrymaria’s fleeting dance and a moving period.

The pond water receded by 50% about a month ago, and so I went back to the lake to the same region and procured more water to fill it up. I am sure I added a few more lifeforms to what was already there as a few days before starting this post, I noticed an explosion of…

Barklice to me “Who said its freezing?”

The past few days have been bone-chilling in the north-east of the USA with temperatures well below freezing point. One would think that life would come to a standstill (at least I felt that this was my end). Not so, as I realized a couple of days ago. As I stirred from my home multi-layered, I…

Bringing Frugal-Science tools to Ayurveda, AIIMS, Delhi

Ayurveda is one of the most ancient systems of medicine and is widely practiced in the Indian subcontinent. The practitioners are known as Vaidyas and there have been several treatises written on it, and several translated into other languages from times of hoary antiquity. The primeval medical text is the Atharva Veda which is about…

Notes from Kaziranga: Pentatomid bug eggs

I was walking around our guest house in Kaziranga when under a fern pinna (leaflet) I noticed a cluster of eggs and some newly hatched larva. The Larvae looked like the first instar of a pentatomid bug. The eggs were all stuck together and to the pinna and had a hard shell (chorion). Below is  a movie of the…

Notes from Kaziranga: The microcosmos of an elephant’s gut

The large mammals of Kaziranga are a sight to behold: the giant elephant, the fortress-like one-horned rhino and the wild buffalo. Although we were in Kaziranga sampling the microcosmos, these giants stood out in the vast forest background, and it was difficult not to admire their majestic presence. In one of our workshops, there was…

Notes from Kaziranga, Sohala Beel: Plationus rotifer

Sohala (16 in Assamese) Beel (Lake) is a collection of 16 water bodes that form this giant freshwater lake in Kaziranga. On the day of the first workshop, I went to the lake to get some water samples. It was 7:00 am, and all I heard were the call of birds and insects. A lone…