Simple Discoveries…

Text and photography copyright Tim Bolinger 2005. All rights reserved.

The article regarding finding the amoeba in Tom's wife's flowerpot (read a Simple Pleasures From a Flower Vase, editor's note) prompted me to get busy and write about my microscopy experience.

A little less than two years ago my wife and I acquired our first microscope, a B&L Stereo 4. The motive was innocent enough thinking it would be a necessary supplement to Jane's aspirations regarding engraving. After taking our first look through the magic glass we were hooked and spent the next few weeks inspecting most everything we came in contact with. Rocks, fossils, flowers, weeds, jewelry, fungi and the associated bugs, other insects and of course the list just goes on and on.

Soon the desire to see fungi spore better led to a beautiful old B&L monocular with the common 10x-43x and 97x objectives. It took us about a year to decide that being able to call ourselves even novice mycologist would probably take more years than either us of have so now it only occupies a small amount of our time.

During the first few months of this new hobby a copy of Julian Corrington's, "Adventures with a Microscope" found its way into my hands and, as they say, the rest of it is history. Now, after a number of other books and several instruments later, I'm happy to say that the intrigue just seems to continually magnify.

About this time I started finding information on the web and the "Microscope" site on Yahoo with Phil and Gordon's contributions along with a multitude on individuals was an inspiration. A little later your "" along with "On Closer Inspection" and "" was added to the list. It has been very interesting to learn how helpful everyone (hobbyist or professional) seems to be in this new hobby of mine. One individual in particular named "Jim" from KC, MO has been a constant source of help and information of which I will never be able to repay in kind.

By the fall of 2003 I had occasionally looked at a little pond water and decided that, before the Indiana winter made this activity less appealing, I would collect two small jars and spent a couple weeks trying various methods of preparation and observing. Now over eighteen months old, these two little jars are still doing just fine.

During November and December of 2003 I searched for amoebae with absolutely no success. A couple of the books seemed to make this an easy assignment and, before I became too exasperated, returniing to Mr. Corrington's comments regarding protozoa seemed in order. Quoting him from chapter VI " Amoeba usually has to be found and cultured by experts who have devoted many years to this study, so do not be discouraged if your collections fail to show this famous organism." Now it seemed prudent to just give up on the elusive prey and concentrate on the easy to view multitude of life in that little drop of water.

If the little drops of water from weeks old pond water samples can hold a persons interest, the explosion of life Spring offers is simply astounding. Sitting here in the cold winter of 2005 I'm constantly recalling some of the excitement the first couple samples of fresh algae offered in the Spring of 2004 and am looking forward to this years treasures.

When Don Williams mentioned his Vaseline sealed slides (Yahoo Microscope Group, editor's note) it reminded me of similar instructions in one of the books on viewing protozoa and I prepared a slide to store in a Petri dish. By keeping a moist cloth in the bottom of the dish and the slide elevated slightly, supposedly the small amount of water under the cover slip would not dry out as fast as usual. After a couple days the results were good and soon I had a slide sitting in front of four of my jars.

After taking at least a quick peek at each of the slides every night for a week it seemed to be a good way to keep samples ready to view at any time. On January 27th I was excited to see my first amoeba and after spending a couple hours on this one slide I found a total of six. Each of the following nights the quantity increased until I counted over seventy on the fifth night. On the sixth night I could only find about half as many and after nine days even though other creatures were still abundant not one single amoeba could be found.
Text and photography copyright Tim Bolinger 2005. All rights reserved
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