Upon finding a moldy avocado in one of our backpacks, we decided to use our foldscope to explore what happens to an avocado as it becomes moldy. In order to allow the mold to grow in a warm, moist environment, we sealed it in the plastic bag and left it in a sunny spot.
We created two slides, using samples from the moldy avocado and from a fresh avocado. For the moldy avocado, we carefully smeared a thin layer of the white mold onto the slide before covering it with the cover slip and inserting into the foldscope.
(Above: Moldy avocado under foldscope.)
(Above: Fresh avocado under foldscope.)
We noticed that the moldy avocado had more of a dust-like appearance, which we hypothesized is due to the mold quickly producing asexual spores at the ends of the hyphae, as a means of growth. We also observed what appear to be clusters, potentially consisting of the tubular branching hyphae. Overall, the structures are somewhat similar. Given that the mold is breaking down avocado cells for its own energy, it seems likely that some of the underlying structure of the avocado is still visible.
Further exploration could focus on comparing the types of mold that grow on different foods, and seeing what foods provide favorable conditions for mold growth. This research could have implications for biotechnology and food production, given that mold is important in the production of foods like soy sauce and certain cheeses, among others.
Contributors: Olivia Johnson and Isabel Arjmand