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Editorial

Back in the year 2011 I started to publish a monthly PDF microscopy magazine. Over the course of 55 issues, until 2017, many amateur microscopists contributed and shared their knowledge in countless articles and pictures. The editing and layout of the magazine was quite time intensive and I quickly found out that it is much easier to reach a large number of interested hobbyists by Youtube. The magazine is of course still available for download and I would like to invite you to have a look at it.

With this newsletter I want to provide some additional information, that I was not able to provide in the videos. If you have comments then please feel free to contact me. Due to the large number of emails that I get, I might not be able to answer all of them right away, but I will try.

Safety aspects

In a few of my previous videos, I showed you how to increase microbial density by adding a bit of food (some wheat, milk etc) to a sample. Over the next few days bacterial growth will increase and these will be a food source for the larger microorganisms, like ciliates. Some viewers of the channel were concerned about this, and worried about safety issues when growing microorganisms. After all you don't know what you are growing and I myself have repeatedly disadvised people from growing their own bacteria on petri-dishes on a growth medium. There are some Youtube videos out there, that show how people grow their own bacteria isolated from their skin, and this is something I do not recommend, as they can be potentially pathogenic.

If you are looking for a safe source of microorganisms to observe, directly isolate them from food that was produced using them. This includes some cheeses (a source of fungi), Kefir, Yogurt, or yeast. It is possible to also buy prepared cultures of these microorganisms for home-brewing.

Role of temperature

At least in parts of the northern hemisphere of our planet, it might be too cold to find a sufficiently high concentration of interesting water microorganisms for microscopy. Biodiversity is much lower, at least it might appear this way. Indeed, there have been comments in the Youtube comments section, that some people had problems finding interesting microorganisms during the cold season. To increase the possibility of finding something interesting, I recommend the following:

Collect sediment from the ground of the pond together with some water. Solid particles sink to the ground, and this is also the place where microbial activity can be expected. Decomposition does continue, but at a lower rate.

Allow the water sample to stand at room temperature for several days. As the metabolic rate of the microorganisms increases, they will also start to reproduce. After a few days the microbial density is much higher.

I have addressed these points in my recent video, which you can watch here: https://youtu.be/QYL7i5fxVNA

Ode to the Microbes

(Just for the fun of it!)

How tiny can a microbe be?
They are so difficult to see!
Too small to see with naked eyes,
some truly have caused much surprise!
They were discovered long ago,
and still are good for quite a show.

They do rot food and make it spoiled,
just do make sure it's all well boiled!
If you do have an infection:
medicine does give protection.
Take it well and with persistence,
Or they will form a resistance.

Not all are bad, I must confess.
Strange feats and traits some do express.
And did you know that bread and cheese
are products of these little beasts?
They even serve as food for fish,
but not when on a petri dish.

Some are thin and some are thick,
some of them look like a stick.
Some of them form little spores,
others, still, are real bores.
They sit around and simply rest,
this puts my patience to the test!

Who would have guessed that they can too,
mathematical calculations do?
Exponentially dividing,
laws of math they are abiding!
Microbes even multiply,
their numbers sum up on the fly.

Millions of them side-by-side
makes them rather hard to hide.
Visible as strings and flakes,
they appear in many lakes.
In digestive systems too!
Welcome to the microbe zoo!

And through my microscope I see:
Well, nature’s vast diversity!
Some do not move, some float, some glide,
some show us quite a novel side:
Moving in a funny wiggle,
they do make me quite often giggle.

They live in water, earth and air,
Fire, though, they cannot bear!
I ask myself what do they eat?
What do they like, what kind of treat?
I marvel at the types I see,
At nature’s greatest mystery.

Microbes now are well in fashion:
evoking, yes, a certain passion.
Microbe hunting is my pleasure,
slides with microbes are my treasure.
Observing them gives quite a kick,
a microscope will do the trick!

Feb 2011, revised January 2021
(by Oliver Kim)

Observing Vorticella
Vorticella

The image above shows Vorticella using Differential Interference Contrast (DIC) microscopy. The genus includes over 200 individual species. Vorticella is a stalked ciliate which is able to quickly contract. A video showing the rapid contraction and the vortex that they cause, can be found here on Reddit.

How I grew them: I have added a bit of food (crushed wheat grain) to a pond water sample. Over the days the population of various ciliates and rotifers increased. The Vorticella were attached to some solid material floating in the water (parts of the food etc). This was placed carefully on a microscope slide, in order not to break the delicate stalks. Whether and if Vorticella grow in the first place also depends if any were present in the original water sample.

About the color: Some people have wondered about the black/white image. This is the original color. The sample did not have any color and the DIC technique was adjusted in such a way that colors were not added (possible becasue of polarized light).

Youtube: Microbehunter
Microorganisms from Ice Water | How To | The importance of correct temperature 178

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CYCLOPS: Where to find them and how to put them under the microscope

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AMOEBA: Where you can find them for your microscope

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How TYNDALLIZATION kills bacteria and how to make yogurt

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Different types of Microscope Eyepieces (oculars)

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How to find out if the microscope objective is dirty

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Advice on Microscopy Youtube Channels

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... and much more!
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