MTPR

Natural History Under A Microscope

Jan 16, 2015

Daphnia, a genus of small, planktonic crustaceans. (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Credit Flickr user, Chris Moody

"Not long ago, I grabbed my boots, a small cooler, and a turkey baster from our kitchen. In just a few minutes, I had broken through the ice on the shore of the Bitterroot River, sucked up some water from under rocks, and squirted it into the cooler. I moved on a bit and watched two muskrats, while I listened to chickadees singing with the sounds of the river behind. This was natural history at its best, almost. It was about to get better. I returned home where my microscope was waiting to show me what minute life forms I had captured. I was about to enter a world undetectable by the unaided eye, and do some microscopic natural history, as it was called 150 years ago. I looked into the eyepieces, and focused as I watched the micro aquatic community come into view."

(Broadcast: "Fieldnotes," 1/18/15. Listen weekly on the radio, Sundays at 12:55 p.m., or via podcast.)