“Hey, I can see the stomata!” I exclaimed.
“Excellent deductive powers,” replied Mr. Kincaid, my AP biology teacher.
The world around me had initially seemed pretty boring and I needed to go on a journey – to have some excitement in my life. After my first examination of a piece of dirt with a microscope I became mesmerized: to see these small organisms which I never even knew existed was unbelievable. There were paramecia, vorticellae, rotifers, bacteria – and this was just the beginning. The journey on which I embarked was through the eyepiece of a microscope.
Our class was at first limited to observing dirt. It was pretty interesting to observe and sketch the variety of microscopic protists in a drop of dirt water; however, I wanted to see more. There was a spider, a Golden Orb weaver, which had obtained the privilege of calling my windowsill “home”. As curious as I was, I wasted no time in asking Mr. Kincaid whether I could bring in this creature for observation under the scopes. The next day I presented myself to his class with a water bottle housing the monster.
Although I mainly wanted to study its eyes and hairy legs, that day was memorable in that I discovered the spider’s circulatory system on its bulbous abdomen. I hit upon it totally by surprise. The prominence of the arteries and veins rhythmically enlarging and tightening opened my eyes to nature’s wonders. (The spider was carefully and successfully released after observations were complete.)
The Daphnia magna was my favorite to observe. The tiny crustacean’s transparent carapace (outer shell) made it very easy to observe its internal organs and tissues. The most fascinating system to examine was again the circulatory system. The laboratory experiment with these tiny creatures consisted of placing certain stimulants and depressants in the water of the Daphnia, observing the beating of their transparent hearts under the microscope, and measuring the effects of these drugs on heart rate. In fact, I witnessed the slow death of a Daphnia exposed to ethanol (a depressant); the struggling and eventual halt of the heart and circulatory system again made me appreciate the wonders of nature.
During this time, I had taken many photos with my camera phone. Pollen grains, the stomata of leaves, tiny parasitic wasps, hermaphroditic plants – even pencil lead – were all photographed due to my interest. My guide, the eyepiece of the microscope, was patient and supportive, understanding that I wanted to observe and focus on the details and take my time. It opened my eyes to a world that was not only literally at my fingertips (pun) but everywhere. Pictures in books can sometimes fascinate students, but the actual observation of this amazing world in all its vividness is horrifyingly and bizarrely beautiful. It is an invisible world that, through the aid of my microscope, became more than “visible” to me.
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