Cell Phone Images Through a Microscopic View

In my High School biology class, we are learning about different biomes and ecosystems.  As part of that lesson we looked at pond water through microscopes so that students could see that ecosystems exist even in a single drop of water.  As we were looking for organisms, a student asked if he could take out his cell phone and take a picture of a worm he found.  In my class, using a cell phone is not an issue as long as it is being used at appropriate times and this was one of those times.  In fact, what a great idea!  I let him know that this was OK with me and wished him luck.  I also told him to let me know how it went.  I could not believe the image quality that he got with his smartphone.  Next thing I know, most students with hand held devices were trying to take pictures of the unseen world, so was their teacher.

From this point on, the interest skyrocketed as student tried their best to get the best picture of some of the amazing creatures that they found.  We came across an animal that we thought was a tardigrade or more commonly known as a waterbear.  Below is an video of the first one we found.  We found 6 in all.

One of the tardigrades that we found was dead.  Inside of it were, 8 round circular objects. You can see them in the next picture. We hypothesized what they were.  Some thought they might be tumors, others thought they were cells, and some thought perhaps the tardigrad just had a bunch of food in it.  I didn't really know myself.  After a quick Google search we found out that they weren't cells, because tardigrades have about 50,000 of them.  So, I decided to post the image on Google+ in a Biology community.  It wasn't more than an hour before we got a response that they were eggs.  Who would have thought that 8 eggs of that size could fit inside a waterbear.  Of course the class joked that it was probably those eggs that caused its demise.

Tardigrade Waterbear

The nice thing about using cameras from cell phones or other mobile devices was that once you have an image, you can then zoom in to get a much closer look.  It is no longer looking a a tiny view but a view that can be projected and then discussed.

The problem with using the cameras as you can see from the video is that it is extremely difficult to get it at the right distance without moving the camera every time you breath.  After doing some research there are some device holders that you can buy to solve this issue.  I don't know that we need to though as the students did just fine.  If I ever have the budget for the device holders I will get a few.  Students quickly learned to hold the camera for small amounts of time at the perfect distance to get the perfect picture.

In the end, the "look at a pond water ecosystem" could not have worked out better.  Technology integration is awesome.  Below are some other images we took.  Click on any of the images to see the complete Google Plus Album.

Microscopic Worm

Worm, don't know which type.

Water Cyclops with Eggs

Water Cyclops with Egg Sacks

Water Shrimp

Pond Shrimp