A Winter Nature Activity
A fun nature project to do in winter is investigating rehydrated lichen under a microscope. We’re exploring lichen in our nature study this month. One of the extra projects is rehydrating some lichen and examining the water droplets under a microscope. You don’t need an expensive microscope to enjoy doing this.
First, you need to rehydrate the lichen for several hours or overnight. The article I read suggested 4-6 hours, but we did a bit less than that. Than we examined the water, drop by drop. Each drop was interesting by itself, but every few drops we’d come across microscopic creatures that would be crawling around in the debris.
I wonder if some could even be tardigrades, those nearly indestructible microscopic invertebrates otherwise known as “water bears”. American Scientist gives this description of tardigrades, “Most tiny invertebrates dart about frantically. Tardigrades move slowly as they clamber around on bits of debris. They were first named tardigrada in Italian from the Latin meaning “slow walker.” Tardigrades walk on short, stubby legs located under their bodies, not sticking out to the sides.”
We used two different microscopes. One was a Carson zOrb 1.0. This plugs into our computer and you can use it to take photos and video. We’ve had it for about 10 years and have enjoyed looking at fabric, items from nature, skin, hair, and almost anything else we could get our hands on. We couldn’t see a lot of detail in the creatures we observed in the lichen, but we could see transparent organisms wiggling around and pushing the debris. (See video at end of post.)
The second microscope we used was the Carson MicroBrite 20x-40x LED Lighted Pocket Microscope. It was actually just as clear, or clearer, but it can’t take photos or videos. This little microscope is less than $15 on Amazon and is a lot of fun. We recently used it to examine detail in dock seeds.
If you have a more high-powered microscope, I’m sure you would see a lot more, but if you don’t, I think this cheap microscope is definitely worth getting. We’ve used it to examine so many things. (One of the reasons I bought this particular model, was because it came with slides, but we promptly lost them, so put them somewhere safe.)
I’d be ashamed to admit how many drops of water we examined and how much time we spent on this. I’ll just say, I ended up with a stiff neck at the end of the day.
So, go find yourself some lichen and see what you can find. We even saw some insects that were visible with the naked eye.