Taste of Science – A hike into the microworld

A couple of weekends ago, Taste of Science hosted an awesome foldscope workshop, in which we assembled a bunch of foldscopes and took them on a hike in the Redwood City area.

This event was my first encounter with the Taste of Science group! They have chapters across the US, all holding events for causal science and fun… Maybe there’s one in your neighborhood? https://tasteofscience.org/

A lot of Prakash lab members came out, and we got to share a little of what the lab works on & Foldscope’s origins before the event got going.

We also took some liberties with our name tags… 😀

Some highlights of the day…

Once out on the hike, we encountered this fantastic dog haha (as you can see, Ellie was quite happy about this).

And once we settled down, we spent the rest of the afternoon preparing slides on a hillside. Evidently, this was no challenge for even the youngest attendees. The gallery of images below are a team effort! He gathered the samples and pipetted them onto slides, I coverslipped and taped them, he put the slides into the foldscope, and then we imaged them!

There was also this one sample we collected from a puddle of murky standing water. It was jumping with life– quite literally! We all made some slides, inspected, and gathered we were looking at Daphnia.

A look at the murky water sample, toward the end you might be able to make out the tiny jumping organisms.

Haha now here’s a video of me prior to realizing this is Daphnia, panning across the body and wondering if what turned out to be its anus was feeding. Yeah, not quite. 🙂

It then became a quest to view the Daphnia alive– for some reason, they seemed extremely sensitive to any pressure? In my experience, creating a chamber slide would be sufficient, even if the coverslip pressed an organism to the slide, or even pinned it in place, it would usually still remain alive. But in this instance, every sample died!

I created progressively deeper chambers, but toward the end they were becoming so deep that they were out of range for focusing.

But after some trial and error, we were able to capture live Daphnia!! Hahah by this point, I may have been more excited by our success than the actual live video, so here’s that little celebratory moment.

Another highlight was meeting Jan, who among many other cool things, showed this trick for collecting pollen samples…

While on a walk with a roll of tape, pull some tape from the roll, shake pollen onto the sticky surface and pinch the tape to secure. Create these beautiful little pinched samples as you go along. When ready to make slides, pull apart the pinched section and just stick it to a slide!

A look at the pollen collected w this technique:

Jan also shared an interest in plankton, and had this absolutely INCREDIBLE journal!! I learned she’s a Greater Farallones Sanctuary Naturalist, leads an awesome insta for plankton
https://www.instagram.com/pacificplankton/ , and works with Chrissy Field Center in San Francisco (
https://www.parksconservancy.org/programs/crissy-field-center ). Hoping to connect Foldscope more with these threads in the future. 🙂

I’ll end this post with some sea monkeys that joined us for dinner…

Until next time!


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