Testing Foldscope on pond scum, soil, onion, fish tank scum, and Morchella elata

We are a Stanford class, led by Prof. Margaret “Minx” Fuller, that is about to embark on a trip to Ecuador to study evolution in the Amazon rainforest and Andean cloud forest. We are very excited for the opportunity to use the Foldscope throughout the trip to look at whatever organisms we can find in bromeliads, lakes, rivers, soil – anything we can fit on a slide! Prof. Prakash met us at Bio-X Kids’ Day to teach us how to build and use the Foldscope.

The first sample we looked at through the Foldscope was some pond scum that Manu brought from Russia:We could see some fungal hyphae protruding from a blade of the pond scum.

We also grabbed some soil from below a nearby plant:The soil had a lot of shards of inorganic material in it, but we also saw what looked like plenty of organic material. We think we saw some fungal spores, such as the very round, dark object near the center of this image:

Later, I looked at an onion leaf and stem through the scope:Onion leafOnion stem

My lab mentor had a fish tank in her apartment with some algal growth that I examined:Zooming in as much as possible on the iPhone camera seemed to reveal that the cells are segmented and chained to form one “blade” of this algae.

Finally, we looked at some Morchella elata mycelium, the base for the prized culinary morel mushrooms:MyceliumWe’re not sure what these small, oval-shaped objects are, but there were a lot of them! Does anyone have an idea what they might be? I’m not sure if it’s just inorganic substrate, or something more interesting.

Many thanks to Manu Prakash for gifting us these Foldscopes! We hope to provide more posts soon, next time from Ecuador!

– Ian and the rest of the Stanford in Ecuador overseas seminar

One Comment Add yours

  1. Manu Prakash says:

    Welcome to the Foldscope community @IanHull.

    Love the post; specially the number of items you have been examining. The last one seems to be fungal spores (small spore like objects). What stage was this fungal culture in. I did not know they are used in culinary arts 🙂

    You all have an important role; you will be in a biodiversity hotspot; and I really hope you will be able to inspire the love for science and share the beauty of the microcosmos to many students you will meet along the way.

    And the Galapagos – oh my. Darwin’s spirits will be rekindled. Keep exploring.


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