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…

The stratum corneum

I have been wanting to do this experiment ever since I saw Manu’s post on volcanoes on his skin and the tatoo post.  I essentially wanted to stain my skin and foldscope it. I had a somewhat erroneous idea that I might see some nucleated cells. I just had to do the experiment to see what…

Day 31: A colonial vorticella: First explorations with fixed focus and dark field

Day 31: 11. Vorticella (Alveolate->Ciliophora->Oligohymenophorea->Peritrichia->->->Vorticella) Ever since the first days of collecting the pond water sample (Day 1), I have been observing this feathery object floating around. I always thought it was a  feather fragment until today when I saw the object moving upwards and then in other directions almost with intention. I put it on a…

Day27: Saltatory Halteria

The pond water continues to do pretty well in my bottle with  rotifers, daphnias and flatworms in a nice equilibrium, suggesting that the water is still not depleted of dissolved oxygen. The population dynamic is really interesting and I wish I could count each of these animals as they increase or decrease in number. Perhaps one could…

Day 17: A Worm meets an explosive end.

The pond water has reached a stable state with several animals below the duckweed top layer. Animals like rotifers and Daphnia are a healthy sign that the water is not depleted of oxygen. A small moving object caught my attention, and I put it on the slide along with some duckweed. It was a quick…

Life in a liter of Pond water — Euplotes– Day 1

In the little town I grew up in India, one of my favorite pastimes was pond watching. A little depression near our school would fill up during the monsoons, and life would spring out as though spontaneously. We (friends and I) would count whatever we could see and marvel at the great struggle (or dance,…

Foldscoping in South India

My journey into the microscopic world began in Chennai some three decades or more ago with a simple bulb microscope (40x). So it was no wonder that I was really excited to revisit my childhood with a foldscope. Chennai is a bustling metropolis in the South-east  of India. Being along the Bay of Bengal, it…

Save the Western Ghats: The Invasive species problem

The Western Ghats are a 1000 mile long mountain range running along the west edge of India and are one of the hotspots of biological diversity. I spent my childhood in these hills in a small town (Panchgani) with tales of tigers, hunters, hyenahs and cobras. Even 30 years ago, the region I lived in was…

An inchworm

I had just plucked an enormous sweet-smelling Southern magnolia flower to study its pollen, when I spotted an inchworm within the flower. What a fascinating mode of locomotion. This larva is from the Geometer moth family. Geometers appear to measure the earth and hence their name.   I put he larva under the foldscope with the dorsal surface…

Pollen Hunters project-II : Pollen roster

Update 6/6/2016. Made the table scrollable for computers and phones. I took help from this page. Update 4/20/2016. Reducing column numbers to fit new format Update 11/2/2015. Added Contributors column. Update (10/2/2015): Added plants that were observed in India, in August 2015. I also have an extensive analysis of trichomes of the Indian plants. Please visit here…

A catalpa flower and its thrip

The best thing about hunting for the unknown is seeing the unexpected.  I was on a morning walk through the woods in my area scouting for flowers when suddenly I saw over a 100 flowers strewn on the path. The flowers were orchid-like, white with purple streaks with orange/yellow spots,  and were really pretty to behold. After…

The ABCs of flowers

The pollen roster project has occupied all my microscopy time, but the journey has opened my eyes to many aspects of plant biology and this post reports one such. A couple of shrubs started blooming in my neighborhood about 2 weeks ago. The flowers were white and looked to be of the Azalea family. I drew near…

Face to face with a sub-mm insect

I was investigating the pollen of a really interesting mutant Azalea (I shall describe that in a separate post). While scanning the field of the slide, my eyes fell upon this immature insect. With the naked eye, it looked like a little spec and so I couldnt spot it in the first place. I showed…

Pollen hunter project–III- Investigating pollen size with a scale

I was displaying my pollen slides to kids around my place and one of them, all of 5 years, who measures everything with a scale asked , “How small are they?”. I mumbled my way through deftly, ignoring the question but it rang for a while in my head after. Measurement is an integral part of science…