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My Microscopes Potential in viewing life

Debate and discussion of any biological questions not pertaining to a particular topic.

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My Microscopes Potential in viewing life

Postby Retnug » Thu Sep 27, 2012 12:15 pm

I have a standard binocular scope with four objectives: 40 / 100 / 400 / 1000 I am able to observe mushroom spores and some ornamentation on the spores. But, my challenge or "failure" is:
I am trying to grow herbs & vegetables using Biological practices. In doing so, I am trying to study the health of my garden soil life and compare to life in my compost piles, soil in my woods, etc.
With that said; when I have placed samples on a slide from my compost pile, and even from the soil from under my chickens roost to observe "any life forms"....I do not see any life at all, and I read all the time about the "millions of life forms in healthy soil". I have not used any chemicals on my soil for some years now! What am I missing here? Is my microscope not powerful enough? Am I only going to see life if I use the 1000 with an oil immersion? Sorry, if this sounds lame; I'm just an old man trying to study my environment on a path to sustainable herb & vegetable growing. I have even tried to catch the biology teacher at my local college to see if I could sit in at the back of their class to quietly listen in to pick up some wisdom on the subject, but these teachers are roaming to different campus locations to teach, and I miss! Timing is hard to catch someone when you work ten hours a day.
Sorry, wordy here: Is my scope capable of seeing these life forms, if so, where am I failing in my attempt? I would be happy to take an answer to my email address is this is too dumb for this forum.
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Re: My Microscopes Potential in viewing life

Postby jonmoulton » Thu Sep 27, 2012 4:23 pm

Are you mounting the soil samples under a cover slip with a drop of water? That can help, as living protozoa can swim a bit away from soil particles, making them easier to see. Also, some of these critters move fast, so using a solution of methylcellulose and water can help slow them down. These solutions are usually available where microscopy stains and microscope accessories are sold.

Read up on lighting the sample - there is great variation in methods for lighting, and the choice of lighting can affect what sorts of items you can see in the sample. In particular, if you go with oil immersion at high magnification you should learn to set up Kohler illumination.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohler_illumination
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Postby Retnug » Thu Oct 18, 2012 12:24 am

Thank you for the response and the Kohler info; yes, I am using cover slip; "plastic", not glass; glass is on my short list of supplies needed, along with some of these chemicals you have shared. I don't know why, or how I came about my "water medium", but I have been using an eye-drop solution, (?) OK I guess? I have used an immersion oil >Type A< for viewing my mushroom spores, but that is the limit of my experience. I am excited about the solution of methylcellulose, for this life in the soil; it never came up with my mycology experiences. Thank you again; I'll have to look on-line for some sort of "Kit" of chemicals that will cover a wide variety of microscopy. I do have a challenge with some chemicals for staining mushroom specimens to qualify their species.
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