Algae Adventures at Carmel Point!

Hello Foldscope Community!  My name is Erika Senyk and I am a graduate student in the Applied Marine and Watershed Science Program at California State University Monterey Bay.  Our graduate-level Marine Ecology class was given the unique opportunity to test out some Foldscopes and see what we could find (Thank you Dr. Hata!!).  Over my next several posts, I will explain what I discovered using my Foldscope, and what I learned during the process!  Let’s get started.

I was surprised by how simple the Foldscope assembly process was.  When our instructor, Dr. Kerry Nickols, said we would be building our own microscopes, I was intimidated to say the least.  Our class assembled our Foldscopes within thirty minutes (roughly).  It definitely made it easier to assemble the Foldscopes with a buddy who helped make sure you were following the steps correctly.  The only problem I ran into during this process was I noticed that there was a bit too much black plastic covering the lens of my Foldscope.  One other student had this problem as well.  We used a small razor blade to shave off the extra plastic, and we were then able to see clearly!  It was time to start exploring!

I began my Foldscope adventures at Carmel Point in Carmel, California.  Our Marine Ecology class was involved with collecting data for the LiMPETS program.  We placed quadrats along a transect out on the rocky intertidal (picture below), and recorded abundances of various intertidal organisms.  The second picture is of Amanda Wasserman and I stretching out the transect measuring tape.

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After collecting data, we had the opportunity to walk around and test out our Foldscopes.  The Foldscope worked really well outdoors, where you could use natural light to view the specimens under your slides.  I also collected some algae specimens to bring back to the lab, so I could see how well my Foldscope worked indoors (and I wanted to get some cool photos with my phone to show you all)!

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I first collected a sample of iridescent algae and brought it inside to look at it under my Foldscope.  I used the magnet piece provided as well as my iPhone to snap a couple pics of the algae.  Not everyone in our class was provided with a backlight, so my friend Larissa lend her phone to me, so I could use her flashlight to illuminate the specimen on my slide.  What I discovered by looking at this sample, was that flat pieces of algae (without much definition) don’t provide the most exciting images under the lens.  This was my first attempt at using the Foldscope, and it could also have been that I wasn’t focusing in on the specimen properly.  First image below is of iridescent algae attached to rock substrate out on the intertidal at Carmel Point.  Second image is of iridescent algae under my Foldscope.

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I next decided to look at a piece of scouring pad algae, which had a bit more definition and texture than the iridescent algae.  I was able to get a better glimpse at what this algae looked like under my Foldscope.  You could really see the branching pieces of algae pretty clearly! First image below is of scouring pad algae attached to rock substrate out at Carmel Point.  Second image below is of scouring pad algae under my Foldscope.

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The last piece of algae I looked at today was red coralline algae.  The images below are (1) red coralline algae attached to rock substrate in a tide pool at the rocky intertidal.  You can see its rosy pink color in contrast to the giant green anemone right next to it.  (2) a piece of bleached coralline algae that I found up at a higher tide level in the rocky intertidal zone at Carmel Point.

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I decided to take a sample of the living red coralline algae and put it under my Foldscope.  In the images below, you can really see its rosy red color as well as some definition in the branching.  I’m not sure what the green in the image is – possibly a different type of algae growing on the red coralline algae?  Comment below with your thoughts!

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I haven’t quite mastered the art of the Foldscope yet, but I know that I can only get better!  It took a bit of troubleshooting to get the images that you see above, but I am very pleased with the end result!  During my Foldscope adventure, I learned the following three things:

  1. Foldscope assembly and picture taking is much easier with a buddy.
  2. Having a good backlight helps you to focus in on the specimen on the slide much more efficiently.
  3. Looking at pieces of algae that have more texture and definition provides for more interesting images.  If you want to look at flat pieces of algae, such as iridescent algae, you may have to spend a bit more time focusing in on the image to get a great picture.

Thank you to all of those involved in providing our Marine Ecology class with these Foldscopes! I’m excited to keep exploring!

Just keep swimming,

Erika Senyk

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